DURBAN – Five reasons why the Sharks beat Western Province to win the Currie Cup final at Newlands on Saturday.
Cool heads in the heat of battle
It has been a long time coming, but we can now safely say that this Sharks side has come of age. A year ago, the Sharks did not have the mental fortitude to steer them home in the big contests. We saw that in last year’s Currie Cup final in Durban, when the home side disintegrated when the pressure was cranked up.
The opposite occurred at Newlands at the weekend, and also the previous week when the Golden Lions staged their fightback in the semi-final. The Sharks’ composure in both matches saw them safely to the finish line.
The Incredible Akker
The Angry Warthog was angrier than ever. He knew he had been left out of the Springbok touring squad (the players all knew last week) and the Currie Cup final on the eve of the Bok departure for London was the ideal stage to state his case to the Springbok coach. And boy did he have his say...
The unhappy hooker was all over the show, snorting and grunting as he made a complete nuisance of himself to Province. And his lineout delivery was spot on and it looked all the better because it contrasted with that of his opposite number. It truly is criminal that Akker can’t get a gig with the Boks, while the middle-aged Schalk Brits can.
Talking of the Sharks coming of age, the midfield pairing of Marius Louw and Jeremy Ward has been exceptional in the Currie Cup, especially in the semi and the final. Louw, a flank when he was at school at Grey College in Bloemfontein, has the subtlety of a rhino as he busily goes about his abrasive business. He might not be the best distributor, but he makes up for it with his incredible industry.
He and Ward have been bruising on defence, with Ward putting in some bone-crunching hits over the last fortnight. Ward, 22, captained the SA Under-20 team and he might well do the same at senior level one day.
Thomas the Tank at full throttle
It is crazy to recall that exactly one year ago, Thomas du Toit was destroyed by Wilco Louw in the final at Kings Park. And then in this year’s first round of Super Rugby he did not do much better against the Lions in his first game back at loosehead. But since that day his progress has been meteoric. The Sharks’ scrumming has been vastly improved as result.
And with Coenie Oosthuizen coming on for the Tank in the second half, the Sharks have unrelenting power emanating from the tighthead side of the scrum. And both of these Boks throw their considerable weight around in the loose to deadly effect.
The Teichmann factor
As chief executive of the Sharks and one of Kings Park’s finest sons, Teichmann has made the old Natal culture the No 1 priority at the Sharks. Over the years since Teichmann retired in 1999, the Sharks have had eras where they lost their way, with the team being more a collection of mercenaries than bosom buddies who put their bodies on the line for each other.
We are seeing that in this team. You can tell how good the spirit and camaraderie is in a team by how they tackle and in this regard the Sharks have been incredible. The defence tells the tale.