Cinderella and the Golden Lions
When I was a toddler, my favourite programme on television was Maya the Bee. Today I can't really tell you much about the then hit kiddies show, but I remember sitting in dead silence waiting for it to come on, utterly captivated by this friendly, yellow bumble bee. Kids born in the 1990s might find this difficult to believe but growing up in an English household, one couldn't just switch on the TV and watch Maya, no. It was only broadcast in Afrikaans. The solution? Mute the television and put on Radio 2000 which then played the English commentary. Frightening to think how spoilt we are now when it comes to broadcasting.
It got me thinking of some of the other famous programmes or fairytale stories that I grew up with: Rapunzel, Goldilocks, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and perhaps most famously Cinderella. It might sound strange, but it's 2014 and I still believe in fairytales... And the biggest hit coming to your television sets this weekend? It's called Golden Lions: Currie Cup Champions Again.
What Johan Ackermann has done with this bunch of so-called 'misfits' borders on the unbelievable. Centre Howard Mnisi is the latest installment in Ackermann's magic playbook. Not wanted at the Sharks and discarded at the Griquas, Mnisi has been welcomed with open arms at Ellis Park. Yes, season-ending injuries to Stokkies Hanekom and Alwyn Hollenbach have fast tracked his progress, but not too long ago, appearing in a Currie Cup final would have seemed impossible to Mnisi, yet his man of the match performance in a 50-20 thrashing of the Sharks helped put his team do just that.
It's been a rocky few years for the Lions. Being kicked out of Super Rugby tested the union, its players, management, staff as well as the fans who had begun to think this could be the end of one of the country's most celebrated rugby teams. But the Lions came back with a bang, slowly rebuilding, winning the Vodacom Cup and gaining entry back into provincial rugby's biggest tournament. They did so without a host of Springboks or big names, instead, building from within and developing youngsters who were practically straight out of university.
Western Province are the glamour boys of domestic rugby, with all of their Currie Cup titles, fancy views of the mountain and overpriced parking. But this weekend, a storm is coming to Cape Town. A storm filled with young, exciting players who are brave enough to throw the ball around in any quarter of the pitch. Their set pieces have been phenomenal, bossing the Sharks pack around in that semi final. The loose trio of Derrick Minnie, Jaco Kriel and 'Captain Fantastic' Warren Whiteley have produced some of the most exhilarating rugby we've seen this campaign. Built like flankers with the speed and hand skills of fullbacks, they give Ackermann incredible attacking depth. Marnitz Boshoff, who continues to be a point-accumulating machine from the kicking tee, should be able to punish WP from anywhere inside their own half, making discipline of the outmost importance for Allister Coetzee's men.
This Lions group has come from the darkest of dark places to find themselves in a Currie Cup final. Whiteley will lead from the front and behind him will be 21 other players, willing to put their bodies on the line to complete the fairytale ending.
This weekend I will sit in silence in front of the TV, as I did all those years ago watching Maya The Bee, waiting for The Lions to complete the fairytale.
But EWN colleague Rafiq Wagiet has his money on Western Province.
Marc Lewis is an EWN sport reporter. Follow him on Twitter @MarcLewisZA