We made a deal with Milissa, that if we gave her tickets to the Currie Cup Final, she would write us a piece about her experience that was much shorter than her last piece for Sharksrugby last year. Herewith she delivers.
There has been not a moment that has passed since Saturday evening, when we lifted the Cup that I have not considered myself incredibly lucky to witness rugby history in the making and it goes with out saying that I owe a great portion of that to my fellow supporters here at Sharksworld. Without your love, support, friendship and understanding I would not have had the privilege to be in attendance at Kings Park this weekend. So before I go any further in the telling of my Currie Cup tale, I want to say Thank You to everyone who helped make this trip such a success.
As most of you know I have a rather long trip to get to Durban and my first flight was rather boring, just a bunch of suits traveling for business. However, my flights to and from Johannesburg seems to always have at least a supporter of the sport that will acknowledge my Sharks apparel with at the least a nod. Thursday was a bit different, I was the last one onto the plane and you can imagine everyone’s attention was on me as I made my way through the aisle to my seat. About a quarter of the way through I drew the attention of a large group of young men, carnival workers I later found out who were going down to Cape Town on holiday. However, they weren’t Bulls supporters (they were too good looking) but they weren’t Sharks supporters either, just men who were rather surprised that this little 5 foot 3 inch American born and bred was embarking on a flight halfway around the world to their native country for the rugby.
After that the flight was about as eventful as any twenty plus hour flight could be, especially when you chase down an Ambien with the complimentary soda. It wasn’t until I was walking through the domestic terminal in Joburg that I really began to feel it, the shops selling both Sharks and Bulls gear but even more telling to me was the amount of people I was running into dressed in their finest Black and White and the rarity of seeing someone wear the sky themed colors of the Bulls. Durban’s airport was no different, well aside from the fact that the Sharks colors and signs of support seemed to be covering every available surface (or maybe I was a bit hallucinatory by this point in my trip), making it abundantly clear whose city we had just landed in.
Friday was spent with my wonderful host Me2 who took me down to Ushaka where I had the pleasure of meeting up with Nessa who sadly would not be making the game on Saturday. It was a wonderful afternoon of pandering to my touristy side (yes..it is still there, I blame the fact I am never on the ground for more than three days) and taking my mind off the upcoming game and the additional information that a meeting with Fred may occur. Friday evening was spent with Me2’s son Rory and his friends enjoying countless vodka based drinks with a shot of tequila thrown in for good measure. The crowd was thick and full of Sharks supporters to the displeasure of the one table who made the mistake of buying a Bulls flag and served to be the perfect appetizer for Saturday.
Saturday arrived quickly after that (maybe it was the alcohol) but none the less I awoke clearheaded (thankfully) with my pre-game superstitions starting from the moment my feet hit the floor. I won’t list them all but it is sufficient to say that every move of my morning is orchestrated in a particular manner in which I think brings good karma to our boys. After a quick breakfast (Strawberry Pops!) we were on our way to King’s Park to prepare for the game, the braai afterwards and of course for my shopping spree in the Shark Cage (R1400. I think I beat my record from back in May). During this time we also met up with Villie and Debs to watch some of the oddly attired Bulls fans and to confirm the plans for after the game. Even though we were hours early, I honestly think this is the part of my weekend that seemed to fly by and before I knew it we were headed up the ramp to our seats. I loved our seats, almost perfectly centered with a clear view of the field below but most importantly was the atmosphere around us. A healthy mix of Sharks and Bulls supporters surrounded us providing me with an authentic experience. It was here in the third seat from the aisle that the most important piece of my lengthy superstitious ritual was completed the donning of my Sharks shirt. My shirt which was purchased just prior to the start of the S14 is the axis of all my superstitions. It does not get washed unless we lose and between games it is kept in a sealed Ziploc bag with a spritz of my perfume in a hidden corner of my closet (unless I am traveling then it is kept in my purse or carryon for safety). There is something so electrifying about completing that step in SA and in King’s Park and this Saturday the feeling was multiplied. It was in that moment as the soft material settled against my skin, that I knew that no matter what happened in the next 80 minutes that our boys were going to come out on top.
Despite that I spent almost the entire game on the edge of my seat watching the action and during what was the ‘scariest’ moment, when Habana intercepted that pass I was on my feet, my Sharks necklace clutched tightly in my hand as the French words of prayer slipped from lips (another of my quirks, always the Hail Mary and always French) and the relief that flooded through me at the sight of Fred’s well placed ankle tap, the slight adjustment of gait and then the beautiful tackle by Frans had me sagging back into my seat in utter relief. If there was ever a moment that could have ruined the night for us that was it. The rest of the game seemed to fly and Fred’s conversion was another memorable moment for me since his kicking in the past (like his tackling) has been a bit hot and cold but he did a marvelous job of slotting it right through the posts to make the most out of Frans’ try. In all the game was amazing and each man who donned the black and white that day and during the course of the season deserves more congratulations than I think I could ever write and I’d also like to extend a special congratulations to John Plumtree who I believe was crucial in our success. Under his leadership a group of extremely talented men came together to be a truly unstoppable team.
The feelings after the final whistle after the game are still indescribable. Relief, joy, excitement, gratitude and a mite bit of sadness because of Fred’s return back to France (which results in my inability to see him play until 6Ns). As the game seemed to fly by the time after seemed to move in slow motion, the dejected Bulls initially off to the side while our guys celebrated, the interviews, the fireworks, the chaotic exuberance that reached from the highest seats in King’s Park down to the field was a moment in my life that I will never forget.