Durban - The Sharks may have lost the log decider to Western Province and if they reach the Absa Currie Cup final the chances are they will have to travel to Cape Town, but the Durban team can be consoled by history.
According to the supersport.com website, this past weekend wasn’t the first time the two coastal sides have met in a late season league match just a few weeks before being slated to play each other again in a final. And on none of the two previous occasions has the team that won the league game gone on to win the main event.
For the record, the occasions in question were 2001 and 2010. In the first, WP were well beaten in Durban before three weeks later convincingly winning the Currie Cup final in Cape Town, and in 2010 the boot was on the other foot as Province smashed the Sharks at Newlands in a league match and then in turn got hammered in the final.
Even last year there was a similar type of sequence, with the Sharks winning both league matches and then losing the final. Indeed, WP will be thinking uncomfortable thoughts about history reversing itself this time, as in 2012 it was they who travelled for the decider as rank underdogs and ended up shocking the Sharks in their own backyard.
But first things first for the Sharks, and after Saturday’s defeat they have at least been shown what to work on as they go into their home semifinal against the Free State Cheetahs. Apart from obviously needing to win the game, it is a match the Sharks will be using to further assimilate their returning Springboks back into their playing pattern.
The return of an entire Bok front-row didn’t have the effect the Sharks might have been hoping for, and not for the first time in recent memory, the young WP forwards fronted at scrum-time and they also dominated the lineout battle for most of the way.
“It was nice having the Boks back and I thought we had chances to win the game. We will be better for having them with us another week when we play the Cheetahs,” said Sharks coach Brad MacLeod-Henderson.
“Obviously we will need to work on our set-piece. We made a couple of handling errors, a couple of mistakes at our set-piece - a lineout or scrum where we didn’t secure our ball and that probably ended up costing us.”
The Sharks coach felt that both Fred Zeilinga, before he was replaced at half-time, and returning Bok Pat Lambie played well against Province, and the kicking game out of hand did work out well for the Sharks.
“We spent most of the second half in their territory, but we just couldn’t get the points we needed and failed to use our opportunities. Pat will probably start this week but it is great to have the option of two quality flyhalves as we go into this decisive stage of the season.”
Keegan Daniel didn’t lead the Sharks onto the field as he received a bump before kick-off and was a bit dizzy. Jacques Botes led the team instead. However Daniel made a big impact when he came on and is expected to lead the Sharks against the Cheetahs in the play-off game.
“The Cheetahs are a quality outfit. They have some big boys up front who give them momentum with their ball carries, and they have some exciting backs too, so we know we will have to play well,” said MacLeod-Henderson.
Final score in Durban (Gallo Images)