His­tory tells Sharks could be worth a wa­ger

The Witness - - SPORT - DAVID KNOWLES

PER­HAPS it’s a good thing that the highly an­tic­i­pated fi­nal round robin Su­per Rugby meet­ing be­tween the Sharks and Lions in Dur­ban at the week­end is now in the past.

With mod­ern tech­nol­ogy, it didn’t take long for rugby fans around the world to be in­formed that the Lions recorded a strong 27­10 win to achieve the dou­ble of a home and away win over the Dur­ban boys this sea­son.

Thanks to de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons the Hur­ri­canes end­ing the Cru­saders’ un­beaten run ear­lier in the day, this means the Lions and Sharks meet again this com­ing week­end in a quar­ter­fi­nal show­down, this time in the Lions’ back­yard at Emi­rates Air­lines Park.

The score line of Satur­day’s game maybe does a slight in­jus­tice to the Sharks who, as they had been say­ing all week in the build­up to the game, were ready and ca­pa­ble of fin­ish­ing on a win­ning note and get­ting valu­able con­fi­dence and mo­men­tum go­ing for­ward into such a big game this week­end. In the end though, they were sim­ply beaten by a bet­ter or­gan­ised team who had a def­i­nite game­plan to halt the Sharks in their tracks and wear them down by com­ing at them for the full 80 min­utes.

To fin­ish top of the over­all Su­per Rugby log is no mean feat and the Lions de­serve all their suc­cess and de­serve to go one bet­ter than los­ing fi­nal­ist last year.

If they progress past the quar­ter­fi­nal and be­yond, all their matches — the semi and fi­nal — will be played on their turf and that is al­ready half the bat­tle won.

How­ever, the Sharks will have to be beaten in the quar­ters for that to hap­pen and this week will be an­other soulsearch­ing jour­ney for the Dur­ban boys as they re­con­sider what they need to do and how they need to ac­com­plish de­feat­ing their Jo­han­nes­burg coun­ter­parts. Cap­tain Philip van der Walt was not happy af­ter Satur­day’s match and made his point clear as to why there was 17 points be­tween the teams come the fi­nal whis­tle. “We never had the ball and there is no way you can put pres­sure on the op­po­si­tion or build any con­ti­nu­ity when that hap­pens. It’s dis­ap­point­ing that we can­not keep the ball,” he said. “The Lions did keep us un­der pres­sure and pin us in our own half and we were up with them at one stage, but once they got ahead, it wasn’t enough from us and hence the re­sult. There are not many times in life when a sec­ond chance is given and that is what we have this week­end. We have to make use of it. That’s the sim­ple man­date.”

The killer blow came af­ter the hooter in­di­cat­ing the end of the first half with the Sharks 10­8 ahead. A bril­liant piece of open play in­volv­ing backs and for­wards mixed with ex­cep­tional sup­port play and han­dling, saw Lions full­back An­dries Coet­zee dive over in the left cor­ner to have the vis­i­tors 13­10 ahead.

That seemed to stun the Sharks and be­ing kept score­less in the sec­ond half was a moot point.

But look­ing at his­tory, the Sharks could be worth a wa­ger for this quar­ter­fi­nal. His­tory can and does re­peat it­self and in 1990, Natal as they was then, were given no chance against the mighty Bulls in the Cur­rie Cup fi­nal at Lof­tus. They re­turned cham­pi­ons for the first time in their his­tory with an 18­12 win and well ... could this be a re­peat?

The Sharks are again un­der­dogs play­ing in the other team’s den and this could it be third time lucky. Sharks sup­port­ers hope so, but it’s fair — and hon­est — to say the Lions should win.

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