Trophy hunger drives Sharks
Johannesburg - JP Pietersen is adamant that the Sharks can overcome the severities of their recent travels and win the Super Rugby final, saying that the driving force now with them is knowing they stand on the brink of history.
The Durbanites have travelled to Australia and back and have returned again in the space of 14 days.
They also went to Cape Town during that period - having had to play the Reds in a playoff game in Brisbane and then the Stormers a semi-final at Newlands.
John Plumtree’s men are currently in camp in Sydney and will travel to Hamilton in New Zealand on Thursday for the tournament decider against the Chiefs two days later.
“What motivates us is the fact that we’re in the final, and more so that none of us have ever won the trophy,” winger Pietersen said.
“That motivates everyone, players and coaching staff. We’re all very excited for Saturday.”
The Crusaders are the only visiting team from a different country to win the final away from home, when they beat the Brumbies in Canberra in the 2000 spectacle.
Pietersen, a key cog in Sharks team during recent weeks, admits it will be an arduous challenge, but is confident they can accomplish the near impossible, provided they make a fast start.
“The Chiefs have been the best team in the competition this season. They showed that the whole tournament and we’re in for a big game,” he said.
“We’ll have to start well against them and will need to be at our best.”
The Springbok star was twice named Man of the Match in the last three games, but admits it is all about the team.
“I’m happy that my body is in great shape, for the first time in my career,” he said.
“I’m fully fit and feeling very strong and that brings confidence.
“When you play well, your confidence rises and motivates you further, I’m just happy that I’m performing well for the team.”
Pietersen’s success as well as that of several other Bok players, including the likes of Ryan Kankowski and Tendai Mtawarira, has coincided with their dramatic turn of fortunes this season.
They looked unlikely to reach the playoffs, let alone the final, at the halfway stage of the group stages when they only had a 4-4 (win-loss) record.
But four wins in a row boosted their chances, although they went into the June international break on the back of an upset loss to the Lions.
“After the Lions game, we agreed that the challenge was in our hands and we’ve all stepped up each week and faced that challenge head on,” he added.
"The break in June gave us time to refresh and talk about our goals and what we wanted to achieve this season.
“But we have won nothing yet, we have to stay grounded and we have one more mission, one more game.”
The calsh in Hamilton kicks off at 09:35 SA time on Saturday.