It is a bit much expecting me to believe that the Sharks, with a possible starting line-up containing eleven Springboks, are the underdogs.
There were more attempts at trying to shirk the mantle of favourites than there were cover-ups at Sandy Bay in the old days when the cops suddenly arrived at the nudist beach to preserve public decency. Oops, nearly missed that vital “L”.
One of the big questions to be answered on Saturday is whether the Sharks will be able to convert their lack of success in finals over the last two years into a positive motivator or not. Doubt is a terrible seed to carry in your subconscious, and the slightest mistake in the first few minutes to feed this, can have a lasting effect.
This is why I found the comment by Jacques Botes very fitting when he said that one needs to be extremely clinical in your execution in the first few minutes until the butterflies have settled. Facing an opportunistic side like WP at home means doing the basics right, or players like Deon Fourie, Jean de Villiers or Cheslin Kolbe will make you pay dearly.
There are likely to be a few fascinating side-shows featuring Eben Ysterbeth (Jaco Kirsten’s coinage) and Pieter-Steph du Toit, and the two front rows after their previous encounter. In the midfield, Frans Steyn has a lot to do to bolster his flagging reputation against a rampant Springbok captain. Demetri Catrakilis possibly faces his sternest test as Springbok contender against Pat Lambie who is burning to prove that he should be first choice when the Springbok side is selected.
The Sharks squad is yet to be announced at the time of writing, but the WP bench looks set to make a massive impact when they come on. Frans Malherbe, Michael Rhodes and Juan de Jongh, in particular, bring a new dimension to the game – remember De Jongh’s brilliant try last year? In my view, the cool head of Schalk Burger will have the single biggest impact when the last quarter dawns.
It is not that difficult to choose who I want to win, but ask me who I think will win, and my mind blanks when I start to consider all the possible factors one needs to consider to make a valid prediction.
En dan is die verdomde bal nog ovaalvormig ook.
The Ebb and Flow
I had humble pie for lunch today, sponsored by Graeme Smith, and it actually tasted quite nice. Thank you for asking. AB de Villiers provided dessert, which went down equally well. I am so glad that the team overcame the lethargic performance in the first test, and is showing the fighting spirit we have come to associate with them.
Regrettably, the same cannot be said of our cricket administrators. Their capitulation in the face of the Indian Cricket Board’s bullying tactics is, to say the least, embarrassing. It reminds me of the politician who said: “I have principles. If you do not like them, I’ve got others.”
The time is right for the big nations to stand up against the Indian Board. If the ICC will not take action, a modern day Kerry Packer needs to step to the fore. Perhaps being unable to compete against the top three or four sides in the world, will teach them the lesson that the game is always bigger than the administrator.