Man, there’s been a lot of talk in the build-up to this week’s clash between the Sharks and the Blue Bulls – I must say, I’ve found it pretty hard to avoid wading right into the middle of it and fighting fire with fire.
Sometimes, though, the best thing to fight fire with is a good old dose of cooling water and whether we like it or not, the signs would indicate that there’s going to be fair bit of that at Kings Park tomorrow, with the forecast indicating yet another wet game. There could be a bit of a metaphor developing here, but I’ll do my best not to push it too much.
So anyway, it seems all and sundry are talking up the Bulls’ chances this weekend and you have to admire that belief that exists within their squad. After all, they’ve had a bit of a crap season, all things considered and we mustn’t underestimate the strong bonds that can often be formed in a team environment when adversity strikes. Hell, we saw just a few months back how our very own Sharks overcame similar circumstances to progress all the way to the Super Rugby final, despite being written off as contenders relatively early in that campaign. Getting into a “knock-out rugby” mode before the actual knock-out matches can often work n a team’s favour, because they don’t need to change anything in their approach and preparation when they do get to the semi. That could definitely work in the Bulls’ favour this week. For them, it’s just one more must-win match away from home and they’ll take a lot of confidence, belief and fire into the game.
The Sharks, though, find themselves in exactly the opposite position; that of favourites for the game and the key for them – it must be said, a team that has never worn that particular tag with comfort – is simply to not panic and start trying to counter the bluster that is coming out of the Bulls camp. Even more important is to not let the Bulls dictate what happens on the field any more than during the build up. This is exactly when the so-called “choke” can happen, when you let people convince you that the underdog is actually better than you are and is all-but-destined to beat you. You lose the game in your own head before you’ve even played it – which is what I believe happened to the Stormers ahead of the Super Rugby semi-final this year.
The Sharks, though, have done well to keep their powder dry in the build up to this weekend’s game and as long as they stick to what has worked for them all season, without getting sucked into the sideshows, I’m confident they’ll come out with the result they want. Pressure is a given in this sport, but sometimes it’s ok to let the other guys be under just a little bit more…Tweet