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Pride and passion aplenty


Written by Warren Smith (war1)

Posted in :Bulls, Original Content, Sharks on 18 Jun 2011 at 23:40
Tagged with : , , , , , , , , , , , ,

It was billed as the swansong of a golden Bulls generation. This would be the last time the light blue army would get to see the likes of Bakkies Botha, Victor Matfield, Danie Rossouw and Fourie du Preez on their beloved home ground. On top of that this match also marked the century of Bulls caps for the hardman Bakkies Botha. This was effectively a knock out game and the Bulls are notoriously difficult to beat in that type of game, even more so at Loftus. Surely the Bulls with their momentum of six consecutive wins and homeground advantage would prove too much for the Sharks who had stuttered their way towards the end of the Super rugby season. Somebody had forgotten to read that script to the Sharks.

Very few people gave the Sharks a chance in this match even after the movement of the Golden Lamb to fullback to make way for the fancy Frenchman in a move that certainly raised its fair share of eyebrows. Hindsight says that a cheeky dropkick, typical of Michalak’s style, was ultimately the difference between the two teams when the final score was in.

What gave the Sharks a chance in this game was intensity and bloody-minded determination which seemed to be missing from their most recent encounters. Still, many an intense and determined team have come to Loftus and still walked away defeated. The Bulls may have been tired after a big game at Newlands but they still needed to be put away. This was a game where the Sharks had to step up and dominate. I have not seen the breakdowns contested as fiercely by the Sharks this season before this game. With and without the ball, the hits were big as the Sharks looked to have the better of the collisions and wrestle control of the game. Men such as Bismarck Du Plessis, Gerhard Mostert, Jean Deysel and Willem Alberts had to get momentum while the rest of their pack followed and contested the rucks ferociously. Keegan Daniel was his usual livewire self and his passionate play is exemplary for any player who is told he is not big enough for top class rugby. Meyer Bosman and Stefan Terblanche put in some big hits in midfield as they looked to improve an area which has proved problematic this season. The Sharks took the lead early in the first half and were never behind and ultimately clung on for an epic win despite the Bulls, in typical fashion, scoring at crucial times with both Sharks tries followed shortly by Bulls replies.

It is not just the players who deserve our praise after such a win. The selection of Michalak was a bold move and the result was bold rugby being played like we have not seen this season from the Sharks except perhaps a somewhat madcap last thirty or so minutes at Coke Park. Much credit must be given to Plum for making that brave decision; it was ultimately him who would take the flak if it did not work out. In hindsight the decision to bring the players up to altitude early was also a good one and I’m sure it helped to galvanise the team and crucially took the players out of the media glare and allowed for a healthy amount of relaxation. There is no point having a focused team if they are mentally exhausted from stress and pressure leading up to their big game.

However, when the euphoria of knocking the defending champions out of Super rugby at their home fortress fades away, we must not fall into the trap of thinking that this victory suddenly makes this season a successful one. As the Sharks ponder an away trip to New Zealand and a slightly more distant Currie Cup campaign, the emphasis needs to be on building on this win and how it was done and use this phenomenal experience to build the bonds of brotherhood in the team all the while continuing to work on the insufficiencies which may prevent this good team from being a great one. Remember this day boys, don’t let your successes be in vain, you showed us you can do it, you showed you are a team. As a team, go on to bigger and better things.



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