DURBAN - It is very new territory for the Sharks as they prepare for a first Currie Cup final since 2013. A lot has changed since then, and only stalwarts Odwa Ndungane and Keegan Daniel remain.
After dominating this year’s competition, the Sharks have been steadily improving a game plan that has been long in the pipeline. Determined and talented youngsters have been the foundation, along with a plan that smacks a little of the 1990s, when the coach, Robert du Preez, made his own mark as a player.
In their 37-27 victory over the Blue Bulls on Saturday, the Sharks didn’t really do anything other than they had done all season.
This is the approach Du Preez has also indicated the team will be taking when they meet Western Province again, the second time in three weeks, at home in the Currie Cup final.
“For us, it will be more of the same, we are not going to change anything,” the Sharks coach said. However, ever the perfectionist, Du Preez was already focusing on the work-ons for their final week of preparation.
“We have to sort out our exits because that was not great, and we could not get momentum in the second half. We gave away too many penalties, so we need to sharpen up there.”
However, the overall feeling from the coach was that Saturday was a performance to be proud of as the Sharks set the tone early on, and then had the character to stave off the resurgent Bulls in the second half.
It was a display worthy of being called a semi-final as both teams had their chances and neither was ready to roll over for the whole 80 minutes.
“It was a fantastic performance by the boys. There are a couple things we know we have to work on, but it is great, it is job done,” Du Preez said. “We have not hit our straps yet, so hopefully we can put that together next week.”
Indeed, even Bulls coach John Mitchell was not too disappointed with his team’s performance, looking at the journey rather than the overall result. His bright rugby mind also picked apart some of the reasons why the Sharks had been such a success this year, complimenting their attacking platforms.
“The Sharks have very good platforms, and they like to create pressure from those platforms; they are very powerful as well,” the former All Black coach explained.
“They like to carry, and are not afraid to offload, and they have a backline that can finish when that momentum is delivered. Then you have Curwin (Bosch) who can kick goals and dropkicks at vital moments. I am sure they will be better for the game they had against us.”
The Sharks will be facing a Province side which impressed in their 19-5 win over the Golden Lions on Saturday.
However, they may well be without their sensational wing S’bu Nkosi, who limped off the field with what is thought to be a dislocated elbow. The youngster was taken to hospital to check for fractures; it does not bode well for the Sharks, nor the Springboks and their end-of-year tour.
This is the sixth final the Sharks and WP will be competing in since the Durban-based team won their first cup back in 1990. The Sharks have won three of them in 1995, 2010 and 2013.