The Currie Cup round robin phase has been completed and the semifinalists and their final log positions have been decided. South Africa’s four strongest teams have all qualified for the semis and each team does have legitimate title credentials.
After the weekend’s loss to Western Province at Newlands, all and sundry have been writing off the Sharks and talking up the Blue Bulls who had a seemingly laboured win over Griquas in Kimberley. The critics would point to the Sharks losing to the Blue Bulls, Lions and Western Province in recent weeks as evidence that the men in black and white are on a downward slide and are going to lose to the defending champions this coming Saturday. The question seems to be who the Bulls will play in the final. Well, I for one would not write off this Sharks team that easily.
The Sharks have lost four games this year, the first one was in the opening game against the Griquas in Kimberley when perhaps the gameplan was not estabilished and a few players were missing from the starting lineup after which the team built up some impressive momentum. The second loss came as the Sharks were looking to extend their lead on the log to almost ridiculous proportions and the Bulls were fighting for their lives, and the Bulls duly won at home despite a late Sharks rally. The third loss of the season came against the Lions came after the Sharks had won a crucial home game against the Cheetahs which cemented their position at the top of the log. Once again the home side were fighting for their lives and the Sharks essentially had nothing to lose. After securing top spot on the log and resting a few players, the Sharks faced a fired up WP team gunning for a home semi final and who were playing in front of a packed Newlands. Once again, the Sharks succumbed to a desperate home side. But once again, the Sharks had nothing to lose in this game.
This brings me to the upcoming semi final against the Bulls. A friend of mine who admittedly does support the Bulls says the Bulls win when it counts and the Sharks do not. Well, the Bulls have proved him right on the first count on many an occasion on the first point including this season with crucial home wins against the Lions and Western Province keeping their Currie Cup challenge alive. Some might argue that the Sharks proved his second point right by losing to the Bulls, Lions and Western Province. I for one don’t think they have and will point to crucial home victories against the selfsame Bulls, as well as Western Province and the Cheetahs which were all crucial wins in their quest to top the log.
Does anyone else see a pattern here? Home ground advantage has been a crucial factor in the tight and must-win games. The Springboks may a play a factor in the playoffs but it has been shown this season that a Sharks team is very difficult to beat at home and the Bulls will not have the easy ride which has been predicted. I for one hope the Sharks will use the stories of how they will choke against the Bulls and how great the Bulls are as ammunition to get themselves fired up for what is admittedly a massive challenge but crucially for the Sharks it is a home game.
While I am by no means writing off a Bulls team who has shown some incredible BMT over the years, a fired up Sharks team at home will be a formidable opponent themselves.Tweet