LIVE

    History’s burden on Sharks

    2012-07-31 11:22
    Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
    Cape Town – Five times in Super Rugby history since its most formal inception in 1996, teams have crossed the Indian Ocean in either direction for the final ... each time they have flown home empty-handed.

    That is the cold fact that weighs on the unenviably globe-trotting Sharks as they prepare for Saturday’s (09:35 SA time) 2012 showpiece against the Chiefs in Hamilton.

    Already science and sheer common sense suggests they will be up against it at Waikato Stadium, with prominent sports scientist Ross Tucker suggesting this week that they will effectively carry a 15-point handicap into the clash.

    Even under more normal circumstances in this competition, they say that it is the second week after a long haul when teams really start to be debilitated by the travel – so Keegan Daniel’s troops ought to be starting to feel the effects now of their passage to and from Australia for that initial finals series task against the Reds in Brisbane.

    But they have since made the gruelling passage again, which in layman’s terms might be deemed a little like trying to cure a hangover with a “papsak” of late harvest.

    A glance at the Super Rugby records only further decreases the likelihood that they will come out on top against the Chiefs, not least because they have been the victims in two of the five instances where the trek between continents has proved a bridge too far for the finalists undertaking it.

    In 1996, they were the first side to come up short in this fashion ... and that was in the days when the rugby calendar was not nearly so obscenely, tightly-packed.

    They played that final against the Blues in Auckland as many as 17 days after seeing off the Reds in a Brisbane semi-final, so there had at least been some opportunity for recharge – it didn’t help, as they were well beaten 45-21 by the home side of Sean Fitzpatrick’s heyday.

    Three years later, in 1999, the Highlanders flew to Cape Town to play the Stormers in a semi, and came away with a 33-18 victory – but already the final was starting to be scheduled only a week onward, and they were beaten at their then-Carisbrook stronghold 24-19 by the altogether fresher Crusaders.

    The Sharks had their second stab at flying to Australasia for a final, a week after winning an all-South African semi against the Cats 30-12 at Kings Park, in 2001.

    They took on the then-emerging Brumbies at Bruce Stadium in Canberra, and in terms of scoring sequence the match certainly seemed to highlight the perils attached to the long-distance flight.

    The Sharks were highly competitive in the first half, with flyhalf Butch James typically rugged and direct and often pushing the boundaries of tackling legality as the visitors tried to unsettle the Brumbies’ touted halfback combo of Messrs Gregan and Larkham.

    It was 6-6 at the break but then the home team went up a vital gear in the second period and ran in three unanswered tries, two of them going to prolific Wallabies wing Joe Roff, as the final score read a convincing 36-6.

    As one newspaper noted: “The Sharks, despite their heavy pack, began at an electric pace although their fatigue after travelling from South Africa saw them almost out on their feet in the second half.”

    The only time that one of the Antipodean sides has made the pilgrimage to South Africa for the showpiece game, came in 2009 when this Saturday’s home finalists, the Chiefs, got on a plane straight after beating the Hurricanes in an all-NZ semi at Hamilton.

    They hardly need reminding that they suffered easily the worst slaughter ever in a final: 61-17 in the heartless Highveld air against a rampant Bulls side, who registered eight tries (Fourie du Preez and Bryan Habana two each, others by Pierre Spies, Victor Matfield, Wynand Olivier and Danie Rossouw) in the process.

    Last season’s final was the fifth instance of the jet-lagged visiting side failing to deliver the silverware: the Crusaders may have been mightily impressive in seeing off the Stormers 29-10 in a Newlands semi, but the journey back sapped much more of their strength and they lost 18-13 to the Reds in Brisbane seven days later.

    The Sharks of 2012 have had the most punishing lead-up schedule of the lot en route to Saturday’s Hamilton encounter, although coach John Plumtree did try to gee up his side by saying after the 26-19 triumph over the Stormers: “If we don’t do this (under such unfavourable circumstances), someone will eventually.

    “If we can get up physically, anything can happen.”

    At least his brave men have the incentive of achieving what many neutrals regard as the emphatically unachievable ...

    *Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

    Read News24’s Comments Policy

    24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

    Comment on this story
    105 comments
    Add your comment
    Comment 0 characters remaining
    Live Video Streaming
    Video Highlights
    Sport Talk
    Most Read
    Commented
    /Sport

    Fixtures

    13 February 2015
    • Crusaders v Melbourne Rebels, Christchurch 08:35
    • Brumbies v Reds, Canberra 10:40
    • Lions v Hurricanes, Johannesburg 19:10
    14 February 2015
    • Blues v Chiefs, Albany 08:35
    • Sharks v Cheetahs, Durban 17:05
    • Bulls v Stormers, Pretoria 19:10
    15 February 2015
    • Waratahs v Western Force, Sydney 07:05

    Results

    02 August 2014
    26 July 2014
    19 July 2014
    12 July 2014
    11 July 2014
    06 July 2014
    05 July 2014
    04 July 2014
    28 June 2014
    27 June 2014
    31 May 2014
    30 May 2014
    24 May 2014
    23 May 2014
    18 May 2014
    17 May 2014
    16 May 2014
    11 May 2014
    10 May 2014
    09 May 2014
    03 May 2014
    02 May 2014
    26 April 2014
    25 April 2014
    19 April 2014
    18 April 2014
    12 April 2014
    11 April 2014
    05 April 2014
    04 April 2014
    29 March 2014
    28 March 2014
    22 March 2014
    21 March 2014
    15 March 2014
    14 March 2014
    08 March 2014
    07 March 2014
    01 March 2014
    28 February 2014
    23 February 2014
    22 February 2014
    21 February 2014
    15 February 2014

    Logs

    Rank Team P W Pts

    Opinion Poll

    Does the Waratahs' Super Rugby victory give the Wallabies an edge heading into the Rugby Championship?

    Monday Quiz Madness!

    TAKE THE QUIZ
    There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.