I was a WP fan all my life and enjoyed the type of rugby the Capetonions generally dished-up. In my heart of hearts I was happy for Province with their latest success run in the S15 (and CC last year).
However, I must admit that I felt a certain amount of satisfaction seeing them lose to the Sharks. This perverse sense of enjoyment in their defeat had nothing to do with the players or the coach but much to do with the over the top reaction/behaviour of some Stormers supporters.
Fact is the Stormers still have no trophies to show but are lauded as the ‘flagship’ by some. I would think that a title like that would require at least some real evidence of being champions not only with regard to trophies but also in the manner in which you play.
Flagship signifies being an example; being a showcase of best practice. Too be honest apart from having an excellent defensive system the Stormers was not by any stretch of my imagination a team that I would like to hold up as a showcase/example of SA rugby.
It might just be their obsessiveness with safe and defensive rugby that cost them in the match against the Sharks. Some scribes have warned that the defensive mindset might become a problem once they fall behind and are in need of scoring tries. Well they were in need to score some tries in this match after falling behind early in the match and had some difficulty getting across the tryline. Personally I thought -in spite of Jean de Villiers statements that they are in good headspace- they played like a team scared to lose and not like a team wanting to win.
The Sharks on the other hand had nothing to lose and played like a team with no fear. Nobody gave them a chance -considering all the traveling they have done over the last 10 days – and they went into the match with a mindset of proving a point.
That in my mind was the difference.
I believe the Sharks are going to enter the final with the same attitude and we might see history being made this year as the Chiefs already played their final. Anyway that’s what I hope will happen.
Back to the Stormers/Sharks match. The Stormers showed some promise as an attacking team towards the end but laboured hard to score their try. My feeling is that two weeks rest did not really help them with their campaign. They were a bit rusty; unable to maintain pressure in the first half due to simple mistakes. They also started slowly seemingly content to make tackles; lacking urgency and focus on attack.
The Sharks went at it all guns blazing right from the kick-off and enthralled as yet again with some spectacular tries.
My summary would be that rustiness but mostly mindset (fear of losing; focussed on defence and lack of urgency with ball in hand for most part of the match) ultimately cost the Stormers this match.