History tells Sharks could be worth a wager
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.