There was hardly a dry eye in the house on Saturday night as the Sharks celebrated long and hard, but one of the more emotional among them was Frederic Michalak, who leaves the Sharks this week for his native Toulouse.
“Durban and the Sharks have changed my life,” the Frenchman said.
“My reason for leaving France was to have a new life experience, but I could not have imagined it would work out quite as positively as it did. I am a changed person. I have grown. I had never spent time outside of my home town, and I came to Durban unsure of myself.
“But South Africans of all cultures, black, white, English and Afrikaans, opened their hearts to me. My time here has been very special indeed. I was very anxious to repay the Sharks by making a good contribution in the final.”
Mike Greenaway writes in The Mercury that Michalak did that and more. He was one of the stars of the show.
He kicked superbly and cleverly, varying grubbers with deft chips and nudges into space, while his swift, precision passing created the space for Frans Steyn’s crucial second-half try.
But it was Michalak’s contribution in defence that had fans singing his praises late into the night. Nobody who was in that seething stadium will ever forget the sight of Bryan Habana in full flight down the touchline in the first half, with Michalak chasing fiercely, every sinew straining in effort until he was close enough to launch himself into a valiant ankle-tapping dive that destabilised Habana sufficiently for Frans Steyn to then make the smother tackle and save the day.
It was one of the most important moments of the match, and a massive psychological victory for the Sharks. If Habana had scored an early try, thoughts would inevitably have turned to the heartbreak of the Super 14 final.
Michalak said the occasion of the Currie Cup final was probably the finest he had experienced in rugby.
“There is no place like this in rugby,” Michalak said, pointing to the celebrations on the outer fields.
“I am just so happy that I could experience this.”
Will he ever return?
“I have signed for three years for Toulouse. After that, who knows? It would have been good to play more rugby for this team,” he said.
“It is one of the happiest and most talented I have played in.”Tweet