The Sharks are the favourites to win the Currie Cup final against the Blue Bulls in Durban on Saturday. There’s no disputing that.
But why are they such clear favourites? Is it because they beat the Blue Bulls four weeks ago with that brilliant opportunistic try by Keegan Daniel? Or because they have 16 players with Test experience in their squad to the Blue Bulls’ eight, with 12 and even starting respectively?
The reason probably lies in the Sharks’ form in their last four matches after a hesitant and some average performances thereafter – until recently.
But on the other hand, when the Blue Bulls did put it together they were awesome. It seldom happened for more than 30 minutes in a match though.
That could point to a lack of focus.
Blue Bulls coach Frans Ludeke does not see the backing for the Sharks as a positive or a negative. “We’re focusing on ourselves,” he said. And he added that the side that takes its opportunities will probably win the golden cup.
Perhaps that is where the backing for the Sharks really takes shape. They have been unrelenting in making the opposition pay for mistakes and loose ball lying around. Nobody has been better at exploiting that than Ryan Kankowski and Jacques Botes – and their proficiency in scoring and creating tries is enough proof of the inherent danger for the Bulls of making mistakes. tt is something they must not only curb but cut out totally.
That they know, and it probably points to a conservative approach. There are various theories about how this final can and should be won. Free State Cheetahs coach Naka Drotske feels that the scrum battle holds the key. Others are of the opinion that it the Sharks have a better all-round game.
Some see the home side as the unit with the game-breakers, other experts say they should win because they’re at home. The Sharks poor record in play-offs cancels those arguments, however. But just as certainly the argument that those losses are history is a very valid one.
Both sides have an excellent pack. Both have great backs with the unpredictable Sharks probably holding the edge despite the Bulls’ hard running.
Yes, Drotske could be right in that the Sharks have an advantage at scrum time. But then, has there ever been a poor scrummaging pack from the Bulls?
And although this is a game if team work, it could – and probably would -be an individual act of sheer brilliance that wins this one. That could go to either side, anyway – although the Sharks would be favourites here too.