Finals are special, aren’t they? As Sharks fans, I think we’ve got little to complain about after a great season in which our side has qualified for two of them, albeit in very different ways.
Super Rugby was all about the underdog story and we tend to relish that kind of situation. The Sharks team, jetlagged and battle-weary, fighting against the odds to come so close to glory. We didn’t quite make it then, but what an amazing upset it would have been if we had done it, against the odds that we faced.
Tomorrow’s challenge is a little different, in that we’ve looked consistently good for most of the Currie Cup season and are at home, rightly installed as favourites for the Currie Cup title. The team will need to use a different set of mental tricks ahead of this game and rather than clinging to that “against all odds, the underdog shall prevail” vibe, rather need to approach the game with the confidence of a side that holds a winning had, but needs to play it one last time.
The Sharks have battled with the “favourites” tag in the past, but having won their last two home finals (in 2008 and 2010) must surely have erased some of those doubts and built up some positive “muscle memory”. There are plenty of guys in this team who know how to win as favourites and I’m hopeful that that fact, coupled with an adoring home crowd and the benefit of some good form coming into the game, will swing this one in the Sharks’ favour.
Finals are always a bit of a 50-50 game at the end of the day, though and we know that there’s every chance that Province could play a blinder and emerge with a surprise win. My message to the Sharks team, though, is to play with the confidence that their record this season warrants, because there really is no reason not to be full of confidence after the year that they’ve had. It’s got nothing to do with being favourites and certainly not complacency or arrogance; rather, a team that knows they can win, must win and will win, doing what they’ve been doing again and again this season – winning at home.
Good luck Sharks! I won’t tell you to do your best, because we know that you always do. Likewise, you make us proud every time you run onto the field, so there’s no point in asking you to do that tomorrow afternoon. If anything, my message is this; there’s another 80 minutes of fun to be had, the last of the season. Go out and play the game the way it was meant to be played and I’m sure the result will follow.