History favours the Sharks in Saturday’s Titanic Vodacom Super 14 clash with the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld. The match amounts to nothing less than an elimination fixture for SAâ€™s only remaining title hopefuls.
A glance at the history books tells you that in ten years of professional rugby, the Sharks have had the better of the bitter exchanges between the two rugby powerhouses. On average, the team from Durban edges out the Bully Boys by 19.5 to 17.5, but a deeper look is even more damning for Bulls fans.
In the five matches played at Loftus in Super Rugby, the Sharks have won twice and drawn once, with the Bulls last win at home way back in 1998, and even then it was a narrow thing – 12-8 in the end.
The overall win ratio is even though, with each team having won four times, with two draws. The Bulls however, boast a win the last time the two teams met – in 2005 at Absa Stadium by 23-17.
And this weekend’s match has already been billed as “South Africa’s Final”, with the winner staying in the hunt for a semi-final and the loser going home with nothing.
Loftus though has become something of a daunting venue for any visiting side and has been dubbed Fortress Loftus by the Bulls faithful. However, this year that dominance has been eroded somewhat with two losses at home before the team departed for Australasia.
And with final fever surrounding this game, every Sharks supporter who turns up at Loftus will remind anyone within earshot of that famous result back in 1990.
Northern Transvaal â€“ as they were known then â€“ were overwhelming favourites to annex their 17th Currie Cup title, instead the Natalians crashed the party and scooped their first trophy with an astounding 18-12 win.
Will 2006 be a repeat of history, or will it be a chance for the Bulls to exact some revenge? A mouth-watering encounter loomsâ€¦
Clashes between the two teams (home team listed first):
1996: Northern Transvaal 30 Natal 8
1997: Natal 27 Northern Transvaal 27
1998: Bulls 12 Sharks 8
1999: Sharks 29 Bulls 0
2000: Bulls 14 Sharks 14
2001: Sharks 30 Bulls 17
2002: Bulls 10 Sharks 23
2003: Sharks 16 Bulls 24
2004: Bulls 18 Sharks 23
2005: Sharks 17 Bulls 23
Average score: Bulls 17.5 Sharks 19.5
By Andrew Hollely