A lot has been said, on this site yes, about the flagship of South African rugby in the Super Series 2012-competition and at the end of the conference-stage everyone and sundry claimed the Stormers to be that ship.
Which leaves me with the logic, even basic question: When does one come to a decision about the “flagship”-thing? Should it be decided at the end of the league-phase or when the last conference team stands; well, or fall?
The thing is, the final must still be played and the Stormers are not in it. Somewhere along the route they went down. Actually, let me rephrase that: somewhere along the route they were sunk. They were put to a “water grave” by the Sharks.
When the fat lady warmed up the Sharks commenced their march towards the cup final and the Stormers clung to their game plan of Gary Owen (up-and-under) and defence. They succeeded with that fourteen times out of sixteen. They deprived themselves from scoring tries and they forced opponents to throw in the towel by virtue of one foot; Peter “Bash” Grant’s boot.
My understanding of a “flagship” of a conference is that it will represent a country in the final and this year the Sharks will represent the South African conference in the final.
Now, ignoring all the home-made definitions of a “flagship”, as it manifested on these blogs over the last few months, the Sharks and not the Stormers seems to be the South African Super Series “flagship.”
The Stormers came very close, agonising so but they were beaten by a team with more intensity and a macro front-row featuring the “Beast” Mtawarira, Jannie du Plessis and “Bizzy” Bismarck du Plessis.
In years to come Steven Kitshoff and Frans Malherbe will become as good as the “Beast” but that will not happen in 2012, probably not in 2013 either.
The Stormers; with all their problems did the Cape proud and Eben Etzebeth and Siya Kolisi were brilliant but they lacked support to stop the Sharks yesterday. They got some help from Andries Bekker but Deon Fourie and Rynhardt Elstadt are not loose-men; yesterday it showed.
The Stormer loosies were swept from their feet by specialist loose-forwards: Ryan Konkowsky, Marcell Coetzee, Keegan Daniels and Willem Alberts.
The combination of Charl McLeod and Freddie Michalak was better than “Bash” and the Stormers’ “achilles’ heel”, Dewaldt Duvenhage.
The Stormers’ backline look good and they created several spectacular try-scoring opportunities; and then they butchered it one after the other.
However, none of the Stormers; actually, make that no other player, were as good as JP Pietersen. JP caused havoc in the mid-field and on yesterday’s performance it is fairly obvious that he is wasted at wing. JP is probably one of the best outside centres in the world and definitely my man of the match.
Louis Ludik had one moment of brilliance and after demolishing the highly acclaimed Joe Pietersen in the air he put the Shark’s “foot” on the accelerator and out of reach from the Stormers.
Looking back it is difficult to comprehend any other outcome for the game other than a Shark’s triumph; but the Stormers came close.
The Stormers’ almost did what they’ve done the entire season: pull of an unlikely victory.
But this was a semi-final; an opportunity to feel the guts and glory to represent the South African franchise in the Super Series final.
This was to determine South Africa’s rugby “flagship.”
It was always going to be the Sharks the moment they mauled and bullied themselves over the Bulls and into the play-off phases.
The Sharks can defeat the Chiefs; not easily but they can.
My guess is, they will.
The Stormers face a barrage of jokes and belittling but they should not be too distraught; they did well without Schalk Burger, Duane Vermeulen, Nick Koster and amidst a bunch of injuries.
Heck, with all the injuries they achieved the impossible: they topped the local franchise.
All eyes on the Sharks and in the words of Minister Mbalula Fikile I say: “go moer them Sharks, gaan donner hulle”.