In terms of historical precedent, the Sharks, in qualifying for this weekend’s Super Rugby Final from sixth position, have gone well outside of the bounds of anything that has every happened in the past – and to be honest, have already done more than anyone really thought possible.
This is not news any more and not something about which the team seems unduly concerned. After all, ask any one of the 30-odd members of the Sharks playing and management team currently in Sydney whether they feel that they’ve achieved something “special” and I’m sure they’ll answer in the negative. Getting to the final has been unlikely, given the obstacles faced by low-ranking qualifiers, but at the end of the day, it’s the trophy that counts and the team hasn’t actually won anything yet.
What I’m trying to say, I guess, is that the Sharks still aren’t thinking about the travel factor and while the knowledgeable pundits and scribes with column inches to fill can’t seem to quite see past the “remarkable achievement of getting this far” on the one hand, countered by the “this week will surely be a week too far” scepticism on the other, the reality is that nobody really knows what is going to happen to the Sharks this weekend. In the build-up to the Stormers game, we had some suitably scientific-sounding evidence trotted in front of us to suggest that the home side would start with a clear advantage; that advantage, though, never materialised on the field and I think that any talk of “scientific evidence” or even “common sense” used to write off the Sharks’ chances in the final should also be dismissed out of hand.
Where the Sharks are now has gone not only beyond historical precedent, it’s also gone beyond the realm of scientific (or even statistical) analysis and, dare I say without being laughed off the stage, beyond the stage of common sense too. Whether this team is currently being fuelled by self-belief, a fear of failure, vodka and red bull, weird voodoo magic, or (as I suspect) a combination of all of those (except the vodka) doesn’t really matter so much any more – what does matter is that the Sharks do seem, finally and after so many stalled campaigns – to have found the missing ingredient that makes them tick.
At the risk of sounding overly parochial (like that’s ever stopped me before) I think we Sharks fans have always believed that our team was capable of extraordinary feats and a level of play that, to date, we’ve only ever seen in glimpses. That game, we felt, could see off any opposition on any field and I find it hugely encouraging that the Sharks, having chosen the perfect time to peak, seem to have finally discovered that game… what’s more, they seem able to play it consistently now too.
So can the Sharks do it? Of course they can. Will they do it? Shit, I don’t know. I hope so, I really do. I know they have it in them, but I also know that there are a lot of factors counting against them. One thing I do know, though, is that not one single member of that 22 will die wondering whether they could possibly have done more, by the time the final whistle is blown in Hamilton. As a fan, that’s about as much as I can ask.Tweet