I want to take you back to 17 May this year.
The Sharks recorded one of their finest victories ever on this day when they broke the SA drought against the Crusaders in Christchurch. What made it even more remarkable was the fact that they played with 14 men from the 17th minute on, and had another player yellow carded later on.
Gavin Rich reported as follows on the Supersport website:
Crusaders flanker Richie McCaw and Sharks skipper Bismarck du Plessis summed up in separate interviews what happened from there. As Du Plessis put it, the sending off drew the Sharks players together and made them a heck of a lot more determined. McCaw, speaking at the halftime interval, suggested the sending off had made his team complacent and had forgotten they still had work to do.
Despite this, the hard graft still had to be done. Again, I rely on Rich’s report to recall how they did it:
The Sharks were no more inventive than they had been in previous weeks, with kicking, defence and the allround suffocation strategy that took them to the top of the log prevailing on this occasion.
This is what they did not manage against the Highlanders in the first 50 minutes last week, and which almost cost them the play-off game. When they did employ the right personnel, and reverted to their successful game plan, things clicked, and they pulled it off.
Looking back on the match, Gavin Rich noted:
The win was an important one, not only for the Sharks but also South Africa, as Christchurch has long been a barrier to South African players, and it proved that the New Zealanders aren’t invincible. At the same time it perhaps also sent out a message about where the South African strength lies.
I have no doubt that video replays of this match featured strongly in the preparation for Saturday’s rematch in both camps. The Sharks will no doubt use it to remind themselves that the Crusaders can be beaten at home. The Crusaders will follow the advice of Sean Fitzpatrick who called his All Black troops together after losing to the Boks and said: “Do not deny this pain. Feel it, live it, and promise yourself that you never ever want to experience it again.” Or words to that effect.
What the Sharks will want to remember is this:
“… many times the Crusaders regained the lead and looked to be regaining control, only for Jake White’s men to fight back with determination and tenacity each time. The lead changed hands many times, particularly during a tense second half where you could sense the nerves of the Crusaders playing havoc with their intentions.
The Sharks deserved their win as even when they had a disadvantage in numbers they never let the Crusaders dominate the gainline. It seldom looked as though the Crusaders were going to make any headway with ball in hand.”
Success will depend on the right personnel being chosen to start the match, and employing their tried and tested game plan. If they can unsettle the Crusaders mentally, sow the seeds of doubt in their mind, and defend as tenaciously as they did against the Highlanders, the match can be won.
It is going to take a very special effort, but Jake White and many of his merry men have been in such situations before.
Go get ‘em, Sharks.
Proteas in Sri Lanka
It is early days yet in the final five day match, but I sense a new approach under Amla.
Despite losing the toss, and only requiring a draw to win the series and move back to the number one ranking in the world, the Proteas made a very confident start and really look positive in their approach. Removing Sangakkara for a duck was a massive blow, and Steyn just keeps delivering on docile pitches.
Die naweek lyk belowend. Dit begin vanmiddag reën hier by ons, daar is baie droë hout vir die kaggel, en die waterblommetjies is jonk en vars vir die sop en bredie wat ek maak so tussen al die sport deur. Boonop het die KWV onlangs ‘n uitverkoping gehad, en kon ek hulle gelukkig help om van hul oorskot ontslae te raak.
Daar is ook twee bottels vonkelwyn in die yskas.