If there’s anything that we, as Sharks fans (well, most of us!) should be patently aware of, it’s that finishing on top of the log – and securing that all-important home semi-final – is unfortunately no guarantee of Currie Cup success.
A look back over the recent history of the competition will reveal that, ever since the last time the Sharks (disastrously) missed out on the semis altogether (2005) they have only once played in an away semi-final (that was 2006). They ended second in 2007 and have been top of the log after the round-robin phase for the last three years (including this one). And yet – there is only one cup to show for it! The haters will look at that record and find evidence of “choking”, no doubt, but the reality of the situation is that, by the time the Currie Cup (or any other competition, for that matter) gets to the knock-out stages, you can generally chuck out both the form book and the history book, because absolutely anything can happen on a given day.
John Plumtree summed it up pretty well in his post-match interview this weekend, saying that picking whether to play the Blue Bulls or Western Province in a semi-final was a little bit like deciding whether to have cabbage or brussels sprouts for dinner. We, as a nation, clamour for full-strength derby encounters, yet very quickly become dejected and despondent when our team doesn’t win all of them! From the perspective of virtually any “neutral” supporter, this year’s Currie Cup has dished up the perfect semi-final clashes, with two matches involving four great teams, with neither result anywhere near a foregone conclusion. For a fair few Sharks fans, those who are already holding their heads in their hands and wailing about how we’ll never beat the Bulls, things couldn’t be worse.
I think we all could do with a healthy dose of reality here. There are three more games to go to decide who will lift the 2010 Currie Cup trophy and with four strong teams all very much in the hunt, it is impossible to pick a winner at this stage. Those who claim that the Bulls (or Province, for that matter) already have it won are, I feel, deluding themselves based on very little actual evidence. By the same token, Sharks fans need to be very realistic about the scale of the task ahead and realise that, right now, our chances of winning the cup are 1 in 4, same as everybody else’s. Looking ahead to the game in Durban, the Bulls team, on paper, will probably be stronger. Counteracting that is the fact that the Sharks are playing at home and are the only team to be undefeated at home this season. Small advantages either way that will probably cancel each other out and leave the game delicately poised, to be decided only by the tiniest of factors in one team’s favour: the bounce of the ball, a strange refereeing decision, a missed goal kick or a perhaps desperate ankle tap.
So let’s not get too carried away here. Let’s support our team to the last and pack ABSA Stadium as full as it can get, because every single desperate black-and-white-clad Sharks fan screaming for our boys to win is going to help. Let’s back the coach to make the right selections and the players to make the right decisions, but let’s also be mindful of the fact that we’re playing against a very good team and that they stand as good a chance of winning this match as we do. I for one will be screaming my lungs out for 80 minutes here and will be gutted and inconsolable if the Bulls do take the spoils on Saturday afternoon. There is, however, one thing I can promise you, even if that does happen.
The sun will still rise on Sunday morning.Tweet