DURBAN – The tears from the Sharks players said it all.
Against the odds, they overwhelmed favourites Western Province to win the Currie Cup at a sweltering Newlands yesterday, the eighth time the KwaZulu-Natalians have held aloft the famous trophy that was first contested in 1892.
“It’s ours!” was the exultant cry of the Sharks after 80 minutes of bone-crunching, sinew-straining arm wrestle conducted in oppressive summer heat that required the players to have unprecedented water breaks at 20-minute intervals.
It took a while for the game to come alive, but when it did, it was a cracker in which the Sharks scored the only two tries of the game after having been behind at halftime.
The Capetonians had gone into the match unbeaten and were strong favourites to repeat their 50-28 win over the Sharks in a league game at the same venue a month ago.
But this time around, they were met by a Sharks team that had been on an irresistible upward trajectory since that setback, their only loss of the season.
The home team were hotly favoured to retain a crown they ironically won against the odds last year in Durban, when the Sharks were overwhelming favourites.
But yesterday the Sharks were substantially stronger in the forward exchanges to ensure that, despite the 36-degree heat, revenge is indeed a dish best served cold.
The best player on the park was the wonderful Sharks hooker Akker van der Merwe, who scored a try and was generally a low-flying heat-seeking missile, deflecting blue-and-white-hooped obstacles in his path.
It was the fourth final in a row between these teams that the away team have won.
Last year a Sharks team that had swept all before them lost in the final and now the Sharks have won in a replica of the 2013 final between these teams at Newlands, won handsomely by the Durbanites.
Sharks coach Robert du Preez said: “We were so nervous in the first half, but when we settled down and started creating pressure by being patient with ball-in-hand, we had them.”
And flyhalf Robert du Preez Jnr, the man who won the final for Western Province at Kings Park last year, summed it up for the Sharks when he burst into tears after kicking the ball into touch at the final whistle.
“It’s ours, we’ve done it! As a schoolboy in Durban, I dreamed of one day holding the Currie Cup trophy aloft in the black and white of the Sharks,” the 24-year-old said.
“For a while, we have been fostering a brotherhood amongst the players, and that is what pushed us through to victory today.
“We just knew we would do it!”
* In another boost for the Sharks, their Under-19 team beat the Blue Bulls in a curtain-raiser at Newlands.
Currie Cup Champions 2018 🏆 pic.twitter.com/UJl8W8n8ko— The Sharks (@TheSharksZA) October 27, 2018