Arriving in Durban the day before the big game, it was blindingly obvious that the whole province were behind the Sharks in a massive way.
Much like the World Cup final, all the school kids were decked out in team colours, confirming their loyalty . Black and white was EVERYWHERE….from shopkeepers to petrol attendants, office workers to hotel staff. Currie Cup fever was very much in the air, there was a mood of expectation and the desperation of Sharks fans to see the trophy finally return to Durban, was almost tangible. The thought of further disappointment was not even contemplated.
The flight down to Durban from Joburg was entertaining. A fair mixture of both Sharks and Bulls supporters exchanged playful banter. I got the impression that the Bulls supporters were genuinely concerned about their chances of turning us over in the Tank as they failed to display their usual pre match arrogance.
There was even one sad case wearing a Wee Pee shirt…I guess the fact that his team didn’t even make the semi’s was burning deep….poor tortured soul!
I picked up my rental car and made my way straight down to the Shark cage. A decision which later turned out to be extremely wise, as the shop on match day resembled the London tube in rush hour. A place to avoid if at all possible!
Within 10 minutes, my credit card had suffered a hit of R1500. However with the pound hovering around the 17 mark, I was still smiling.
I battled to sleep on Friday night, a combination of excitement and nervousness was to blame. This was the BIG one, the game I had been waiting for. It was revenge time and I was a like a school kid all over again. I remembered our previous Currie Cup triumph up at Ellis Park as well as all the disappointments since that magic day. All sorts of thoughts were running through my mind. In addition, after a lovely sunny day, the rain had started to fall in Durban and it was absolutely bucketing it down. I was praying for the rain to stop – no-one wanted rain. Not only would it spoil the actual game but worse it would affect both the after match braai’s and the planned celebrations.
Saturday morning dawned and I was up bright and early. No sign of the rain abating. Infact, if anything, it was coming down steadily harder. I made my way down to the butchers to replenish the biltong and droewors supplies and get some braai packs for later. My Dad left the house at 10am to ensure a prime parking spot on the outer fields. I decided to head down to ABSA at around 12 and to my surprise still found a great parking right near the swimming pool. Durban folk famously always seem to leave things to the last minute!
Made my way to the stadium passing a variety of strangely dressed “Blou Bull” supporters, complete with horns, ring through the nose etc. We exchanged further banter and this time they seemed a bit bolder, confidently predicting that us Sharkies would have no answer to Habana or Spies. My standard reply was “take a look at our BENCH”…if these guys can’t make our starting XV, you Bulls are in trouble! That seemed to get them quaking again. Got to the ground and met up with all our fellow Sharksworld people (Debs, Milissa, Elspeth etc). After a further bit of shopping at the Cage (where the queues were almost out the door), we settled down to our seats and a few beers.
Having been a regular at Kings Park (Absa) since basically birth, the atmosphere inside the stadium was possibly the best I can EVER recall. Looking around the stadium there were a good few thousand Blue Bull supporters scattered in pockets in every area of the ground. Infact it was one of the most impressive “away” followings I’ve seen in Durban.
When the stadium announcer asked “Where are the Blue Bull supporters?” , a tremendous roar erupted and I admit to being slightly concerned. I needn’t have been. As soon as he enquired about the Sharks supporters, an almighty cheer was accompanied by thousands and thousands of black and white flags. It is difficult to describe this atmosphere. You needed to be there to appreciate it. I felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand up and I became extremely emotional with the pride that had built up inside me.
The moment of truth had arrived. This is what I had waited for all these years and why I had not even given a moments thought to the cost when I booked my flight out from the UK. I knew this was an occasion that I didn’t want to miss. I would have regretted it forever if I had.
The game kicked off and the intensity was brutal. This was more physical and more passionate than most test matches. This was akin to the World Cup final. It was clear from the outset that our boys would die out there for the cause, they would not come off the park without making sure the famous trophy was back in Durban.
I was shaking in the stands, barely able to look at times. When Habana intercepted Frans Steyn’s pass, I closed my eyes and for a second feared the worst. Thankfully, our wonderful French import Freddy Michalak (what is it with French players and Sharks CC triumphs?) showed immense guts not to give up and straining every sinew saved what was a certain try with an ankle tap on the off colour Springbok wing. From then on, the Sharks dominated the game but just couldn’t pull sufficiently clear at any point to ease our (the supporters) nerves. A combination of magnificent defence from the Bulls and below par goalkicking from the Sharks kept the Bulls in touch. We really should have been around 9 points or more clear at the break.
When Frans Steyn scored our second try not far from where I was sitting, the relief and delight was incredible. Supporters were jumping up and down hugging each other. Michalak’s conversion was crucial and he nailed it. We hadn’t won yet but we were almost there….the Currie Cup was in touching distance.
However the Sharks being the Sharks just HAD to give us loyal fans one further heart attack. With time up on the scoreboard and a Sharks scrum, all we needed was to win the ball, put it into touch and the Golden trophy was ours. A simple equation, especially as our scrum had been dominant all day. I have to admit that when we got shoved off our ball at that vital scrum, giving the Bulls the vital put in….memories of the Super 14 final came flooding back and I could not watch that last scrum.
Words do not do justice to the elation I felt when Jonathan Kaplan blew his final whistle. The tears flowed with the emotion and the stadium erupted with a cheer that is unlikely to ever be repeated. Sharks supporters stood and applauded our heroes and once again “Simply the Best” bellowed out over the loudspeakers. We stood and waited for Johann Muller to loft that magic trophy over his head. Our boys had done it and the celebrations would go on long into the night. We applauded once again as the boys did a lap of honour with the Currie Cup. I could hardly believe it. Finally the trophy was back in Durban, and back in our cabinet!
Every single player played their part in our magnificent victory. All of them were superb but if I had to name my personal man of the match it would have been Stefan Terblanche. He was absolutely colossal and took every bomb that Fourie Du Preez and Morne Steyn threw at him. In addition he was incisive on attack and even left old Pigeon chest in his wake on an occasion. His positional play was impeccable.
A special word also for Freddy Michalak. His was another class performance. The capacity crowd seemed to inspire him and his defence especially was sensational. He proved that he is a big game player and it was a fantastic note to leave us on.
In addition, every player that came off the bench for the Sharks made an impression.
After the game I managed to chat to most of the players as well as get almost all of their autographs and photo’s with a lot of them. I chatted to Brad Barritt about his move to Saracens and promised to go and watch him in action. I had a laugh and a joke with Deon Carstens (what a fantastic guy he is) and chatted to Stefan about his future.
What a day. A day I and I’m sure all Sharks fans inside the stadium will never forget. I am certain that it won’t be another 12 years until our next trophy. Let’s hope for the Super 14 title next season!Tweet