Sportal.co.nz 05.Aug.2012Getty Images
Coach Dave Rennie said the game started out as 'a bit of an arm wrestle' early on and if a couple of loose passes from the Chiefs had stuck in Sharks' hands then the game might have been a little different.
"They were forced to make a lot of tackles in the first half and it took its toll in the second half so I think we got things right mostly tonight. We got down the right end of the field and they had to play a lot of footie from there and made a few mistakes and we benefitted from that," Rennie said.
"It's hugely satisfying but I'm just really rapt for the boys. They are a great bunch and have worked really hard and have certainly earned the respect, not only of our coaching group but also the community," he said.
The initial selection had been a key factor for the side. Hard-working players had been targeted who could put it on the park week after week and the leadership group had done a fine job within the team and that had made a difference.
Captain Craig Clarke, who had been in doubt due to a grade 2 medial ligament strain in his knee, said it was great what adrenalin could do to take his mind off the leg. He played with it strapped up and the only sign of it had been some stiffness in the last 10 minutes of the game.
Rennie said to get 80 minutes out of Clarke spoke for the quality of his character.
Clarke, as a survivor of the Chiefs' debacle against the Bulls in their only other final – in 2009 when the Chiefs were beaten 61-17, said he had some feeling for what the Sharks were feeling like after the game.
It had been good to get through the Sharks' initial onslaught as the Chiefs had been scrambling. However, they managed to settle and play some rugby and that had seen them take control.
"It wasn't the best of starts, we were a little bit passive and the hunger that was there last week [against the Crusaders] wasn't there initially and we had to find that," he said.
Having seen the success of New Zealand's rowers at the Olympic Games, and knowing the efforts they put into their preparations just down the road from Hamilton, Clarke said there was a feeling of wanting to 'fast forward' to the moment to enjoy similar sorts of success for the work the Chiefs had done.
Rennie said the fact that Sharks hadn't scored a try in four games against the Chiefs wasn't too much on the minds in the preparation, but it had been noted the style of play the Sharks used left a lot of clear areas to kick to in games.
"We didn't quite get it right early in the game, we lacked intensity at the breakdown and we talked at half-time about getting quicker ball and putting them under a lot more pressure," he said.
Defensively it had been a great effort to keep them scoreless again, he said.
Rennie acknowledged his coaching support, and said his team of former All Blacks coach Wayne Smith, Tom Coventry and Andrew Strawbridge had been the best he had worked with. There was a lot of experience and they were a group who challenged each other.