Sharks down Bulls to book final date
The Sharks will host the Absa Currie Cup final on October 30 after putting in a massive display to beat the Vodacom Blue Bulls 16-12 in one of the most physical semi-finals seen in the competition’s history.
It was a truly bizarre afternoon in Durban, when first the game was delayed because of a swarm of bees that settled on the field, forcing the kick-off to be 40 minutes later.
Then a mild rainstorm turned into a monsoon downpour as the game headed to its climax but through it all it was the Sharks who kept their nerve to seal a famous victory.
The fact that it was 20 years to the day that they upset the Blue Bulls in the famous 1990 Currie Cup final at Loftus Versfeld will bring a smile to Sharks fans. John Plumtree’s team held the ball for most of the game, tore into the Bulls both on attack and defence and were deserved victors when the final whistle was blown.
A telling moment came in the last five minutes, as the Bulls reveled in the wet and found their rhythm, but the Sharks defence held them out twice with monstrous heart and big tackles to deny the champions another crack at the title.
The Bulls will be wondering where it went wrong, but in essence they couldn’t get into gear. The old adage that you only play as good as your opposition allows you is certainly applicable to this Durban game.
In the end Frans Ludeke’s team will rue the amount of errors and some poor decision making that cost them the match and the chance of doing the triple in one season. The Vodacom Cup and Vodacom Super 14 trophies may lie at Loftus Versfeld, but for the Bulls, the Absa Currie Cup is lost for another year.
Still, the Sharks knew all too well that they would have to front up physically if they were to beat a Springbok-laden side like the Bulls. And this they did. Willem Alberts, Bismarck du Plessis and Jannie du Plessis in particular looked exceptional, and don’t be surprised if Alberts gets the nod for the Grand Slam tour next month.
Things went wrong for the defending champs from the beginning, as they lost the kick-off and were immediately on the back foot. Within three minutes, Keegan Daniels had taken an inside pass from Charl McLeod to scamper through around the fringes for the opening try.
With 10 minutes gone, it seemed the Bulls had hardly touched the ball.
Forty-seven tackles in that time showed the Sharks ascendancy and it is seldom you see a Bulls side struggle to get hold of the ball like they did in this game.
Morne Steyn’s boot kept the Bulls in touch, as Patrick Lambie was on song with the few opportunities he was presented. 10-6 at the break may have been a good scoreline for the Bulls, but it was far from a telling tale of the Sharks ascendancy throughout the first period.
It was clear the second half was going to be a massive arm wrestle, and both sides gave as good as they got. Lambie pushed the Sharks out to a seven point lead, but within minutes, Steyn reduced the lead to four points.
This see-saw battle continued unabated until eight minutes from the end, when the Bulls took the big call of pumping the ball into the corner, searching for the try and for a victory.
The Sharks held firm, putting bodies on the line and stopping the Bulls juggernaut with passion and pride.
And when the final whistle went, a drenched Absa Stadium erupted in unison to celebrate a famous history. The 1990 victory will always be remembered, but for the die-hard Sharks fans, this 2010 win will be remembered for a long time to come.
The Sharks - Try: Keegan Daniel. Conversion: Patrick Lambie. Penalties: Lambie (3).
Vodacom Blue Bulls - Penalties: Morne Steyn (4),