For Swys de Bruin’s Sharks under 21 side and Sean Everitt’s under 19s, the upcoming games against the Western Province counterparts mean everything and nothing respectively.
After a nightmare first round that saw them lose 4 out of their first 6 games, the under 19s have hit a purple patch and starting with a fine win over the Blue Bulls in Pretoria on the 4th of September, haven’t lost again. They now find themselves firmly entrenched in third place on the log. With all four teams in the semifinals unable to win or lose any ground whatsoever in the final round-robin round, the Sharks have nothing to play for against Province; they will finish third (and Province first) regardless of the result of this game and face the Bulls in an away semi-final next week.
Everitt will face some interesting selection choices, but since he has used a pretty big squad over the course of the season anyway, thoughts of resting overworked players are unlikely to be plaguing him overly much at the moment. If anything, maintaining the momentum and winning habit is likely to be more important for the baby Sharks as they aim to replicate their round-robin result in the semi-final next week. Should they succeed, they might just find themselves facing Province again, at the same venue as the Currie Cup final. That may, just may, take place in Durban.
For the under 21s, though, there’s still everything to play for against Province. The Bulls have completed their set of matches and while they are currently first, their slender 2 point advantage on the log will definitely be wiped out by the winner of Saturday’s game at Newlands, as both the Sharks and Western Province have this game in hand. Due to the Bulls’ inferior point difference, there’s a very real possibility that the loser of that game could overtake them as well, provided they lose by less that 7 points and score 4 tries in the process.
Whatever the permutations, the Sharks under 21s, who have been most impressive this year, will know that they have a top-of-the-table finish within their grasp and should they be able to repeat the previous result between these two teams (the Sharks walloped Province 41-14), they will set up a home semi-final clash against a Free State side that has been unusually weak this season. Lose and they face a third place finish, together with a trip straight back to Newlands to play Province again in the semi final. That result will leave the Bulls to face the Cheetahs at Loftus.
Given that the Sharks under 21s have won every game (and convincingly), except for the two against the Bulls, they will want to ensure that the Pretoria side play the hardest semi-final possible and will fancy their chances of toppling the old rival far more highly if they are forced to play a final against them in Durban. The location of the final is, unfortunately, not in their hands and, like the under 19 game, will take place wherever the Currie Cup final happens to be held.Tweet