Windback Wednesday: Blues v Sharks 1996

Windback Wednesday: Blues v Sharks 1996

In this week’s Windback Wednesday we look back on a match that Sir Graham Henry often talks about as being one of the most pivotal, not only in Blues history but also his own.

History records that the Blues won the inaugural Super 12 on home turf against the Natal Sharks, but more than a decade on, Zinzan Brooke insists the competition was really won when the Blues edged out Natal 30-23 at King’s Park in Durban, two weeks before the actual final.

The match contained as much intensity as any of the 58 Tests Brooke played for the All Blacks, with the powerful number 8 saying ìraw guts and undying commitmentî got his side through.

“It was backs against the wall stuff,” Brooke said.

“If we’d lost at Durban, we’d have been looking at a semi-final up in Pretoria against Northern Transvaal, and another week away in Africa, and I don’t think anyone in the squad fancied either of those two options.”

Under extreme pressure in front of a capacity crowd at King’s Park, the Blues played as if their lives depended on it. With the scores locked at 23-all with a minute to go, Lee Stensness grubbered through the ball and regathered it before sprinting away and managing to offload to Eroni Clarke who scored the match winner on fulltime.

“That win gave us the belief that we could go on and win the competition,” Brooke said.

“While no-one looked any further ahead than the next game, we’d already learned from our mistakes in that regard. Beating Natal away gave us the knowledge that we were good enough if we got our preparation right and played to our potential.”

From there the Blues returned home, defeating Northern Transvaal in the semi final 48-11 before clinching the inaugural Super 12 title with a 45-21 victory over Natal.

Check out that match-winning try…