I wonder how many of you really thought the Sharks would go to Newlands and win. I certainly didn’t but, like most of you who love your rugby, at the back of my mind I knew they had a chance … they had the momentum after going all the way to Brisbane and beating the Reds.
But to actually pull it off at Newlands in the way they did surprised me – and I’m sure a lot of you too.
If you recall, I predicted wins for the Stormers and Crusaders so I got both Super Rugby semi-finals wrong. But I know I wasn’t the only one eating humble pie.
Anyway, now it’s the Chiefs up against the Sharks in the big final on Saturday, a match very, very few would have predicted a month ago.
Sure, the Chiefs deserve their place and aren’t a surprise package at all as they led the way for much of the competition – but the Sharks?
Hell, if you’d told me half-way through the competition they’d make the last game, I would have thought you were smoking something illegal.
John Plumtree’s men never really got going until the international break, mixing some good stuff with very ordinary play, and I felt the absence of any rhythm and momentum would see them lose out on the top six and the play-offs. They even lost to the Lions just before the Test break – the shock of the season – but they came back in some fashion and won every match to qualify for the knock-out games.
From almost nowhere they started playing with aggression and passion and their forwards finally began to dominate opponents in the way they were expected to from the start. And the backs, too, finally found their range. Are there any words left to describe the season JP Pietersen is having? Whether he’s on the wing or in midfield, the guy’s been at his very best in recent weeks and he must now surely be a front-runner for SA’s player of the year in 2012.
Getting to the final though – as pleasurable as it is for the Plumtree, the players and the fans – will mean little if the Sharks don’t win it in Hamilton. And let’s be honest, if they pull it off on Saturday, the victory will have to go down as one of the greatest accomplishments in sport.
When they run onto the field the players would have crossed the Indian Ocean three times in two weeks, spent many hours in the air and had to adapt to new times zones on several occasions.
It’s a huge ask for the Sharks – an almost impossible task – but a win will turn every one of them into legends. – The Star