His heart is telling him Sharks, but iafrica.com columnist BJ Botha believes everything is pointing to a Chiefs victory in the Super Rugby Final this weekend.
What an incredible weekend of results.
Going into the semifinals, I felt that the Sharks would be taking a lot of confidence going into the game after winning in Brisbane the previous weekend and I think the combination of a solid defence and taking their opportunities on attack was the difference between the two teams.
The Stormers had a week off before the game, but from personal experience having a game behind you can often help more than getting a break, particularly before such a crucial game. You’re ready to go, and while the game can catch up with you towards the end of the match, you’re definitely sharper…
It can take some time to get back into after a two-week break – which is ultimately what the Stormers had since their last match – and that can cost you, as it did the Stormers over the weekend.
The set-piece was always going to vital for the Sharks, as I felt the Stormers might have the edge in the backline, and by dominating in the scrums the way they did, the Stormers backline was never working off front-foot ball. Individually, guys like Eben Etzebeth and Andries Bekker played well, but the team as a whole did not produce the goods.
Ultimately the experience in the Sharks pack came through with players like Beast, Bismarck du Plessis and Willem Alberts really coming to the fore. A lot of these guys have been in games like that before and in semifinals and Finals, that experience can play a massive part in winning and losing.
Looking at the other result, I must admit that I was surprised by it. The Chiefs really took it to the Crusaders from the start and it is good to see them starting to deliver on the potential they have always shown. I have chatted to some of the New Zealand guys I play with over here now and they admit that while the Chiefs have always had the players to deliver titles, they have never been able to put it all together… until now.
The Chiefs have been erratic in the past, but they will be expecting to go all the way now.
A step too far for the Sharks
The Sharks would probably be happier to play the Chiefs in the Final as the latter are far more erratic than the Crusaders and they have yet to win the title. They are not as water-tight as some of the other sides and are not as clinical in putting the opposition to the sword.
It was surprising that the Crusaders went down to the Chiefs, particularly in New Zealand and the Chiefs will be very happy to hosting the Final, because travelling to Cape Town to face the Stormers would certainly not have been encouraging for them.
To be honest, I think the Stormers would have been favourites if they were the hosts this weekend.
But as it stands, the Sharks travel to Hamilton. They came out firing against the Reds and they did the same against he Stormers. They will look to do the same this weekend, but as we saw against the Stormers, the game-time and travel could catch up with them towards the end.
The use of their substitutes and their preparations before the game are going to be key, but they will definitely be up against it going into the Final.
They have been ping-ponging across the Atlantic and winning against all odds, but repeating the results of the previous two weekends is going to be very, very hard.
The Chiefs could come unstuck – they have done it before – but while my heart says Sharks, everything else is pointing towards a Chiefs victory this weekend.
The set-pieces will be massive again. The Sharks have a great scrum and can certainly lay a platform there, but again, in the backline the Chiefs hold the advantage.
The Sharks defence has improved immeasurably this season, but how long can they hold out for? Defending is tiring, and if you are on the defensive the whole game, cracks can begin to form…
The Sharks will have the will to do it and they have the players as well, but they are going to struggle to hold the Chiefs at bay after such an incredibly hectic schedule.
BJ’s prediction: Chiefs 28-21