DURBAN – Against the odds, and to many people’s surprise, the Sharks were the ones left holding the Currie Cup Trophy in Cape Town on Saturday evening.
It was not that the Sharks were shock winners, or undeserving to be in the final.
It was more that they stopped a rampant Western Province side who lost one game all season – the one that mattered.
This win for the Sharks is both enjoyable as it is necessary for a union that has been rebuilding itself from as far back as the Jake White era.
The evidence has been there, and under coach Robert du Preez, the progress has been evident, but this piece of silverware is vindication for a lot of hard work.
“I have to give credit to this group of players, and particularly Chiliboy Ralepelle, who played a magnificent leadership role throughout the whole season,” Du Preez said.
“We have had a theme over the past couple of weeks called ‘brother for brother’. It’s all about playing for each other, and the whole squad has to be commended for that.
“Province are a great team, so to come into their backyard and get the win is a fantastic achievement.”
The men from Durban have been slowly building up a youthful, energetic, and passionate squad of players who are no longer cutting their teeth, and are rather now starting to deliver results.
The trophy shows to the players, fans, and all those vested in this team that they have finally managed to get the mentality right and have a real winning attitude.
There is no sugar-coating the fact that the Sharks should have won the Currie Cup last year – against the same opposition.
They fell at the final hurdle, and opened up a big can of concerns that needed addressing.
This underdog win, while reminiscent of the 2012 to 2013 campaign, has proven that their concerns have been sorted.
They have banished the demons of last year’s painful final loss, and they have made the only possible step up to show an improved season, by winning the entire competition.
This is a huge boost for the Sharks now going forward. They have backed their youngsters, shunned the idea of bringing in big names, and as such when Super Rugby rolls around next year, they will be in a far better place.
The winning belief will carry them through for sometime, and may push them that little bit further in what will be a tougher tournament in early 2019.
Du Preez’s vision and plan for the Sharks is showing dividends now, and he should be applauded for not only running the team, but driving its direction.
The coach has always said, when his side clicks, they will be devastating, and while he is usually talking about game for game, that idea carries through on a grander scheme.
If the Sharks can maintain this cohesion and confidence through to Super Rugby, and during the entire competition, it could well be a much better year for them based on this Currie Cup platform.