Today is one of those watershed day, one feels; it’s a day when the Sharks have not one, or even two, but three golden opportunities to stand up and show that all is well in the union and that they are a serious force to be reckoned with on the domestic rugby scene.
It’s not often that all three Sharks teams get to play such key matches, at home, all on the same day and if we ever wanted to send a clear message that the Sharks are here and you tangle with us at your peril, then today is the day to do it. It starts with the under-fire under 19 side, who face the mighty Western Province at 15h00 and if ever a win was sorely needed, then it’s these lads who do so.
The junior rugby program in KZN – and the Academy in particular – tend to come up for a lot of criticism these days, with allegations that we don’t contract the right players, don’t produce enough local talent, don’t do the right sort of coaching, focus on profit over performance and all manor of others being raised by those with axes to grind. It feels to me that those who are most passionate about the under 19 game in the province are often the first to write the Sharks juniors off before a ball has been kicked in anger and while it’s true that a lack of depth amongst the playing squad – and continuity in the coaches’ box – have led to another lacklustre season, Rob du Preez and his boys are still in with a big shout of making the knock-outs this year and can do those prospects an awful amount of good by winning today.
The under 21s are up next and if ever there was a truly strong and versatile squad assembled to play in the black and white at this level, then Heimar Williams and his class of 2012 fit that bill. They’ve won ugly when it mattered and won pretty when they’ve had the chance and are right up there towards the top of the log. Last weekend’s shock loss to the Lions was a blow, though and the boys simply have to bounce back in emphatic style this weekend (also against Province, at 16h45) to ensure a home semi-final. This afternoon’s match for them will also be season-defining and will go a long way to establishing whether we finally have a team able to win this trophy, or will have to make do with also-ran status yet again.
Enough has been said about the Currie Cup side that we don’t need to focus too much on their match against the Blue Bulls; except, I guess, that we need to point out that a loss here would be nothing short of catastrophic. We like to think that we have the team – and the game – to beat those guys comfortably tonight but if history has taught us Sharks fans anything, it’s that “comfortable” is not a place we ever want to be. Sharks teams that are comfortable tend to have soft moments and lose games that they should be winning at a canter. There is a lot to gain for Keegan Daniel’s men tonight, but there is even more to lose.
Let’s hope that those fans who have the means and the wherewithal will show their support by turning out in numbers today, to support all three teams in black and white.
After all, nothing else matters…Tweet