There were no emotions left at the start of the game, just numbness and confusion. Maybe there could have been a small flame of hope, but that was soon replaced by indifference and coldness. I tried to get angry and there were plenty of worthy reasons for me to do so, but what’s the point?
After a very promising start, the Lions soon lost interest and that was all the Sharks needed to close the game and add yet another punctuation to the “Rugby is a tough business” statement. The Lions managed to hold onto their lead to just into the 2nd half, but in truth the game was lost when Laurence yellow carded Hendrik Roodt just before the break. It seemed to go all pear – shaped from there on.
The Lions had their opportunities but lacked the accuracy and killer instincts that were on display one short fateful week ago. The usual penalties and unforced errors began to creep in and within a period of knock on’s; missed tackles; dubious penalty decisions and crooked lineout throws the Sharks took the game beyond the reach of the Lions. As is the case so often in the past, this was the first 10 mins of the 2nd half.
An initial reaction would be to get upset with the players, but with all things considered, they must have had a lot on their minds. Their hearts were not in this particular match and even though they like to be considered as professionals – who can really blame them?
Like in every game the Lions lose, there were positives and the forwards played particularly well against a pack that is feared and well reputed throughout the competition. Warren Whitely worked hard as did Franco and the front row would be feeling pretty pleased with themselves after out scrumming their foes hands down.
At times the match became quite open with line breaks, followed by counter attacks and open field running. The Lions did have their fair share of this, but the Sharks made the most of their opportunities, whereas the Lions were not able to conjure up that final move that puts a player in the clear.
Protection of the ball in contact was poor in general and by both sides, but the Lions were the ones to have lost it on the most inopportune of times and while both teams were guilty of missing tackles, the ones that the Lions missed looked to be the softer and most costly.
The only thing that really annoyed me was Andy Capastango’s totally biased commentating throughout the game. If he wasn’t going on about one KZN high school or another he was then just about willing his team to score that bonus point try! His outrageous burst of “Bull in a china shop” excitement when Jean Deysel went over for what was in my opinion a very soft try was way over the top and although I could not see him, I heard his words spoken through a great big smug smile.
The Lions coaches and administrators are in a very precarious position and not just for obvious reasons. I believe that their biggest challenge is how to deal with the players in a way that they still get the best out of them, but without upsetting anyone. It cannot be emphasized enough how important the next 11 months are and the sole focus of everyone should be on how we are going to play ourselves back into Super Rugby.
There is no time to shrug our shoulders and wait till next July, we need to be like Rocky Balboa – the underdog, training like a wild animal, fiercely focused on our goals and not allowing any obstacles to hinder our passage. The Currie Cup must be seen as a stepping stone to our ultimate objective, where even winning it again must be seen as secondary to our return to Super Rugby.
By the time we have our go at the Kings (or whoever it may be), we will be so tough, so grim and determined and so mercilessly effective that we shall dispose of them like a hammer crushing a fly.
The Currie Cup is still wide open, with the Cheetahs, who lost heavily to us now beating the Bulls and WP who lost to the Sharks, just scraping past the Grikwas. This was therefore a very good result for the Sharks, helped indeed by the results of other matches and circumstances.
Although the drawing board will need to be consulted once again, I don’t think that the boys were too far off the mark. It really was just execution and moral that was not where it aught to be on the night.
For the Sharks: Tries: Sithole, Ndungane, Deysel Cons: Bosman 3 Pens: Bosman 3
For the Golden Lions: Tries: Penalty try, Grobbelaar Cons: James 14