DURBAN - While history bodes well for the Sharks this weekend, as they take on Western Province in very similar circumstances to the 2013 final, they will also be aware that when they were in Cape Town last they were probably undercooked for their clash with the unbeaten home side.
2013 bears a scary similarity to the events that are unfolding currently in 2018, especially considering the equally similar years of 2012, and 2017. In 2012, the Sharks were the heavy favourites for the Currie Cup trophy, but were beaten at home by Province. (This was a similar case last year in the same competition, ). Then, in 2013, Western Province were the favourites, going through unbeaten, only to lose at home to the Sharks.
Thus, the Sharks now need only lift the trophy to make history repeat itself almost exactly, but that is the only history they will want to bear repeating. When they were in Cape Town at the end of September, they were given a 50-point hiding, something that assistant coach Nick Easter believes they have at least learned from..
“We know what a quality side Province are and how lethal they are,” the former England international explained. “We have to be well prepared and focused for 80 minutes. It was a big wake-up call from where we were - we were probably stuttering though a few performances - but now we have a little more consistency because we know exactly what it will take to become champions.”
The rough and tumble of that battle in Cape Town certainly jolted the Sharks a bit as they had previously been able to coast through most of their games untested. But having that ‘wake-up call’ has helped the side reach new heights at the right time.
“I think our guys have definitely kicked on since that game, there is much more clarity in what we are trying to achieve,” Easter added. “Our error rate and turnovers were too much in the first game and those guys punished us and exploited flaws in our systems. And they do say you learn more when you lose, and as much as you try and treat each week as the same, and try not to be outcome-driven, it often turns out like that in professional sport.”
It is not only that the Sharks have been better in the matches following on from the Province loss, it is that they have matured and become a better collective unit heading into the big finale on Saturday.
“We are very happy with where the guys are from where they have come from,” said Easter. “They have taken a lot of ownership in the last month, a lot more responsibility, and are driving the standards in training and as a result in the games, and it is all down to them.”