From as far afield as Rotterdam in the Netherlands, to sports pubs across Europe and London, millions of Sharks fans roared their delight as the Durban outfit romped to victory against the Lions and into a home final in the Absa Currie Cup.
They take on the Blue Bulls who beat the Free State Cheetahs 31-19 in the second semi-final in Pretoria last night. “We’ve got a home final. Go Sharkies, go!” bellowed Harmen Lienjse down a phone line from Rotterdam. He and his 12-year-old son, Johan, were kitted out in Sharks gear bought during their first visit toSouth Africa last year.
Fred Kockott writes for the IOL that the Sharks were just too good for the Lions as they cruised to a 29-14 victory in the first of yesterday’s Absa Currie Cup semi-finals, at Durban’s Absa Stadium.
To the delight of the fans, No 8 Ryan Kankowski sprinted 40m to land the first try in the 14th minute. Soon after, Freddie Michalak dotted down a second, beautifully orchestrated try.
Lions centre Doppies la Grange scored for the visitors, but by halftime the Sharks led 26-7. In the second half the Lions launched wave after wave of attack, but the Sharks were strong in defence, with the Lions scoring a late consolation try by centre Jacque Fourie in the final minute. Durban is now set to rock in the build-up to the final showdown with the Blue Bulls on October 25. Benefits to the city are expected to top R150-million – about R50-million to R80-million of it direct spending by about 20 000 visitors.
Spin-offs Durban city manager Mike Sutcliffe said besides stadium ticket sales and direct spending, “each visitor spending R1 000 to R1 500 a day over two to three days”, and marketing spin-offs the final in Durban would be “worth at least another R40 or so million”.
“The Sharks are truly incredible for the city, this province and the country. They are known throughout the world, and now in KwaZulu- Natal we not only have the Big Five (elephant, rhino, lion, buffalo, leopard) but the Big Six, with Sharks No 1,” said Sutcliffe.
After Kankowski’s amazing athleticism saw him score the first try, the match was, as SuperSport commentators said “like Jeppe Street – one way traffic.”
“When the game flowed it was really good,” said Sharks coach John Plumtree. “I was also really pleased with our defence, and the 24 points we had at half time.”
Above the field, the Coyote Suite was abuzz as all-night partying began with manager Steve Haag punting the sale of Coyote suite tickets for the final, prices starting at R800 a person.
“Tickets go on sale (on Monday) 9am and should be sold out by 9.15am,” said Haag. Total ticket sales at the stadium are expected to rake in R12-million.
Cracking open a bottle of “Raggie Red”, Midlands wine maker, Tiny van Niekerk, said besides full bookings at the city’s best B&Bs, guest houses and hotels, big booze sales were expected, alongside extensive marketing of Sharks paraphernalia and his new edition of Sharks red wine, recently blended by the team’s captain, Johan Muller.
Director of operations at Hilton Hotel, Angela Rittig, was upbeat and “feeling good”, not only about the expected increase in revenue and occupancy for Durban hotels, but also “a highly-motivated KZN community and positive vibe” around the final showdown.
Pubs and restaurants are expecting to do a roaring trade over the weekend of the final, and liquor outlets are banking on bigger sales in the run-up to the event. Besides the boost to allied industries, spin-offs extend to smaller retailers and entrepreneurs, from biltong producers and butcheries to informal traders cashing in on the sale of Sharks and Blue Bulls paraphernalia,
caps and flags.
Major airlines expect the Johannesburg- to-Durban flights to be fully booked over the final weekend. Virginia airport manager, Glen Bryce, expected at least 40 to 45 private and chartered airplanes would fly in and out over the weekend of the final.
“Besides private aircraft, mostly belonging to farmers, six local charter companies are likely to get very busy with bookings from corporates,” said Bryce.
“They always make a whole weekend of it, staying at local B&Bs, partying all night of the game, and hiring cars and taxis to get about the place. It all has huge spin-offs for local business.”
And given the Sharks’ growing popularity abroad, the party spirit is likely to be felt beyond our shores. Indeed, in a pub in the centre of Rotterdam, Lienjse regaled others about his visit to South Africa last year.
The highlight for Lienjse and his son was not a trip to a game park, but entering the hallowed Absa Stadium grounds to touch the grass of “the home of the Sharks”.
Unlike a day earlier this year, when Lienjse watched a Tri-Nations game sporting a green and gold jersey, changing hours later into a Sharks jersey – only to witness both teams lose badly, it was celebrations
in his local pub yesterday from the moment of Kankowski’s touchdown.
“The South Africans here are mostly Durbanites. There’s Craig Collinge from Durban, also Bluff skollie, Armand Burgraaf, and Peter de Jaager and family. They all reckon the Sharks are going to bring the cup home,” said Lienjse.Tweet