sharksrugby.co.za 06.Aug.2012Getty Images
The Blues (1996, 1997, 2003), Crusaders (1998-2000, 2002, 2005, 2006, 2008), Brumbies (2001, 2004), Bulls (2007, 2009, 2010) and Reds (2011) were previous winners, which means nine teams have still to win arguably rugby’s toughest tournament – certainly rugby’s longest.
Following a hectic last few weeks which saw The Sharks travel thousands of kilometres flying from Durban to Brisbane, back to Durban, down to Cape Town, to Johannesburg and Sydney, en-route to Auckland and Hamilton to play in the final, they were up against a team who hadn’t been out of their country since June, and hadn’t had intercontinental travel (to South Africa) since May.
Sharks captain Keegan Daniel, who has led this side so well all season, after the game paid tribute to the home side who now become the third New Zealand side to have won the Super Rugby trophy (in its guise as Super 12, Super 14 and Rugby Rugby).
“On behalf of The Sharks, I’d like to congratulate the Chiefs on their unbelievable performance in the final,” he said. “To all the supporters who came out to support us, thanks very much, to the fans back home, sorry we couldn’t do it.
“It’s been an unbelievable four weeks.”
He admitted that while they didn’t want to find reasons for the loss, the travel factor had simply been too much for them to overcome. Simple biology overcame heart and passion and there is no shame in that.
“This was a hurdle just too big for us. But no excuses, the Chiefs were outstanding, they’ve been outstanding all season and are deserved winners of this competition, hats off to Craig Clarke (captain of the Chiefs) and his boys.”
He added that in finals you can win by one point or 20, but the plain simple truth is to score points when you can and the winners did just that.
“Finals rugby is all about scoring off opportunities, capitalising when the chances present themselves. But when we dominated, we were unable to get the points and when they had opportunities, they managed to take them and score points and ultimately that’s what the difference was. They suffocated us.”
Looking back over the season, he concluded that it had been a wonderful time for the team, for it’s growth and for the heart they showed.
“It’s been an incredible journey for us since that loss to the Lions, but we brought ourselves back into the competition and gave ourselves a chance.
“Unfortunately we couldn’t pull it off, but hats off to the Chiefs and their coaching staff, they’ve done an outstanding job.”