The Sharks confirmed what I have always suspected: they get more pleasure from beating the Stormers than winning the Super 15.
One could tell from their lethargic ‘body language’ that they were never serious about Saturdays final and they believed they had no chance of winning it. In fact they knew that two weeks ago, which is why they decided to ‘peak’ against the Stormers in Cape Town.
The sad truth is that they viewed their semi-final against the Stormers more as a ‘local derby’ than a play-off, and they never had their eyes on the grand prize to begin with. For the Sharks and their one-eyed supporters, it is enough to claim the prized scalp of the mighty Cape team and no doubt they will feed off it for decades to come.
To sum up what the Sharks have done into one word: Treason.
Consider the negative implications of Saturdays game. Firstly, the prized Super 15 trophy will reside in New Zealand for another year. This alone is highly annoying. If the Chiefs had to travel to Cape Town we would no doubt have beaten them, or at the very least softened up some key All Black players, (possibly with injuries to boot).
Now the New Zealanders have bragging rights for another dreadful year.
Secondly, consider the physical implications on a Bok team already top-heavy with Sharks (and inexplicably, Blue Bulls) players. These guys now have to travel back into another time zone and try and adjust in time for Springbok practice and the national cause.
Thirdly, and perhaps most pertinent considering the fragile Bok temperament, imagine the psychological implications. The forward momentum now lies with the All Blacks. It also means the Wallabies have had an extra two weeks to prepare and we all know how those miscreants thrive on the under-dog status.
What the Sharks have done is a classic case of cutting off their nose to spite their face, and quite frankly, I don’t know how we can prevent this from happening again. It is not as if we can change the rules or anything, as this is an ethical dilemma. Perhaps a crash course in sportmanship at a junior level in Kwazulu-Natal can help instill a sense of national pride above selfish short-term gains? (Not to harp on too much, but it is no coincidence that over in the UK, a certain fly-in-our-cricket-teams-ointment is a turncoat batsman who was schooled in Natal. . .)
Of course the game itself highlighted obvious shortcomings in certain players. For example we learned that Patrick Lambie is not Bok material. We simply cannot have a fullback that is not prepared to tackle. If Heyneke insists on picking him, then I strongly suggest that he brings in Percy Montgomery to mentor him and get him up to scratch regards defence.
The other big disappointment was the rabble-rousing Bismark Du Plessis. To use a veterinary term, Bismark appears to suffer from distemper. In fact he is not unlike a woman five years into a marriage: belligerent, stubborn and always looking for a fight. Costly too, in terms of points given away. Can the Boks afford such recklessness? I think not.
On the positive side, at least the Sharks got Steve Walsh on a good day. In fact I would say that the 50/50 decisions were well in favour of the traveling team.
The other positive was that thumping tackle by Ben Tameifuna on Kankowski. The rugby purist in all of us would surely have enjoyed Tameifuna’s sense of timing and skill.
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