DURBAN – Two weeks ago, at halftime in the Currie Cup match between the Sharks and Western Province, visiting coach John Dobson admitted he thought his trailing team were dead and buried after having watched the Sharks dominate the game.
History repeated itself at the weekend in the final, but this time Dobson knew for sure his team would win go on to win again after two of his players had a quiet word in his ear on their way into the change room.
Province were 21-15 down.
“Wilco Louw and Robert du Preez both said: ‘Don’t worry coach, we have got this one’,” Dobson said after his team had gone on to put the Sharks to the sword in the second half for a 33-21 victory on Saturday.
Louw was an ideal man to comment. The tighthead anchored a set scrum that demolished their Sharks opposition. Louw knew that the Sharks had lost the battle upfront.
And flyhalf Du Preez knew that once again at Kings Park he would be the chief beneficiary of the front-foot ball.
He was in the perfect position to see that the Sharks were going backwards, and he went on to expertly guide his team home with the stream of quality ball coming his way.
“The scrum battle was an important part of our plan, but we didn’t expect it to be as dominant as we were,” Dobson admitted.
Nor did anybody, expect possibly Louw.
“The first scrum of the match was a Sharks put-in, and they went backwards. That laid down the marker. It was very encouraging,” Dobson said.
“We knew our pack was under-rated going into the match and that we would be underdogs, but we really had the belief we could win.”
Captain Chris van Zyl was another who felt the Sharks had played their best rugby in the first half, and that the momentum had shifted when centre Huw Jones scored just before halftime to narrow the Sharks’ lead from 21-10 to 21-15.
“We knew it was still in our hands, we felt we had set-piece dominance, and that if we just kept the ball, then things would start happening,” Van Zyl said.
“So we just wanted to be a bit more direct and stick to the plan, and it all just came together from there.”
It did indeed. It was one-way traffic, with the Sharks failing to score points in the second half and the visitors running rampant.