Ever-present giants Clermont will clash with Stade Francais in the Top 14 final on Saturday, the Parisian club hoping to paint the French capital pink with a first title since 2007.
Eight years ago, Stade conquered Clermont 23-18 to claim their last Bouclier de Brennus, and having dispatched treble European champions and defending Top 14 winners Toulon 33-16 in last weekend’s semi-final, the Parisians must certainly not be discounted against their favoured rivals.
Clermont saw off Toulouse 18-14 in their last-four clash, Australian Brock James coming off the bench to kick a penalty and late drop goal in the club’s bid for a second-ever title after their 2010 success.
A win for Clermont would also go some way to making up for the 24-18 defeat by Toulon in the European Champions Cup final – the second time in three years it has happened.
Indeed, Clermont have earned their ‘perennial bridesmaids’ tag, having been losing Top 14 finalists on no fewer than 10 occasions despite oozing class and danger from one to 15.
Prop Thomas Domingo added: “Everyone’s sick of losing these finals. We’re determined to head up to Paris to do something.”
Franck Azema took over from hard-nosed Kiwi Vern Cotter as head coach after the latter left to head up Scotland, but he was equally as frank in his assessment of what needed to be done.
“Everyone tells me it’s great to reach two finals in one season, but what remains inscribed on the honours board is who won the titles,” Azema said.
Stade, who often wear pink, have urged their supporters to all wear pink in the fnal.
They have arguably been one of the surprise packages of the season after seven years of relative mediocrity.
Fired by irrepressible Italian skipper and No 8 Sergio Parisse, the team has reacted well to the stewardship of France fly-half Jules Plisson and, after his injury, that of Springbok veteran Morne Steyn, whose place kicking has been as superb as ever.
The outstanding prop of the Top 14 has undoubtedly been Stade’s 25-year-old Rabah Slimani.
“We don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel but it’s not over, we have a date at the Stade de France. As we often say between us, if we don’t go all the way, it means nothing.”