Blame my friends who write about the Blue Bulls for the fact that I went a bit quiet last week at the start to the build-up to Saturday’s ABSA Currie Cup final in Durban.
Gavin Rich writes for the Superrugby website that it is not that I don’t relish the prospect of seeing the Sharks and Bulls re-enacting last year’s Super 14 final, and although I do feel the Currie Cup comes second these days to the big southern hemisphere competition (the crowd figures say it all), I booked my air ticket to Durban during the half-time break in last week’s semi-final between the Sharks and the Lions.
My apparent reticence to write about this game is that I find it almost impossible to do so without making mention somewhere of the 1990 Currie Cup final between these two teams at Loftus. That was the day the Sharks (then Natal and known as the Banana Boys) won their first ever Currie Cup title in their Centenary Season.
There, I have done it, I broke the promise I made to a clutch of Blue Bull writers who took me on a couple of years ago during a Sevens tournament in George about their perception that I was fixated on that game.
This was the end of 2006, and they took me a bet that I wouldn’t be able to go a whole season without making some mention of it somewhere in my writing on Supersportzone. The Super 14 final in Durban last season made it impossible for me to win that bet. The reversal of the roles of that heady day in 1990 (for Natalians) when Bryan Habana dropped in for the winning try for the Bulls just had to be mentioned.
So 2007 went by without me keeping my side of the deal, but so far any mention of 1990 has been small enough to be missed by the northern based writers. It has to change today, however, for you cannot look at a final between the Bulls and the Sharks without taking a glance back at what has gone before.
And what immediately strikes you is that, if you are a Natalian, this is a time when the 1990 experience should be forgotten. It is not just that they have home ground advantage that puts the Sharks in a different place to where Craig Jamieson’s team were 18 years ago, it is also the fact that this time it is they who are starting as favourites.
You do get the feeling that down in Durban there is a sense that destiny is on their side, quite apart of course from the great form that the Sharks have displayed under John Plumtree since the return of most of their Springboks from the end of July.
The Sharks are favourites and the Bulls are underdogs, and yet my recall of the league encounter between them in Durban in early September is that although the Sharks won well on the scoreboard, there wasn’t that much separating the sides. In fact, had Morne Steyn kicked his goals, the Bulls could well have won.
The pressure should certainly be more on the Sharks this time than has been the case in the past for the simple reason that they have not won a trophy since 1996 – and considering the talent they have had at their disposal since then, that is far less forgivable than the 100 years of drought they endured before 1990.
I know some avid Cape Town based Sharks fans who are not travelling up for this final because, in their words, “We don’t have the guts to after what happened last year, we cannot travel that distance to live through that disappointment again”.
And make no mistake, for die-hard Sharks fans, the 2007 Super 14 final was a traumatic experience. As one of my other friends put it, “I have never been so high one minute (after Albert van den Berg’s try that we all thought had won it for the Sharks) and then dropped so low the next”.
He is going to Durban for the final, he is one of the brave ones. Forget about 1990, I have a hunch that right now the game he doesn’t want me to write about is 2007. We are sure to hear all about it though on Saturday night if this time the Sharks manage to hold their nerve and win the game.Tweet