DURBAN - It is doubtful that in the Sharks’ Super Rugby history there has ever been quite so dramatic a turnaround as the insipid draw with the pathetic Melbourne Rebels at King's Park to a highly impressive win over the Jaguares in inhospitable Buenos Aires.
A lot can happen in a week in politics, we are often told, and the Sharks showed that perhaps even more can happen on the rugby field over the same period.
Words like “enigmatic”, “schizophrenic” and “Jekyll and Hyde” spring to mind when you consider that the Durbanites were utterly shambolic in drawing with the hopeless Rebels and then at the weekend played with zest, purpose, character and skill to beat a home team who had only one player uncapped at international level - left wing Bautista Ezcurra.
It was a highly entertaining game with both teams giving as good as they got and at half-time the score of 20-20 summed up the equal contest.
There remained little in it going into the tense final quarter before the Sharks eventually broke the deadlock with a try that will long be repeated in highlights packages - it is not often you see a tighthead prop (Coenie Oosthuizen) bursting through the defence to set up a loosehead prop (Thomas du Toit) for a charge for the try-line. Nothing was going to stop the 130kg tank once he had the posts in his sights.
Towards the death, Curwin Bosch kicked a penalty to shut out the home side and his 18-point tally with the boot again showcased his incredible talent.
There has been rigorous and healthy debate as to whether the 19-year-old Bosch should be nurtured carefully and not used in the front line for the Springboks against the French in June, but if Bosch can marshal the Sharks with aplomb against a virtual Pumas team in the less than salubrious surrounds provided by the hostile Argentineans, then perhaps he can handle anything.
Speaking from the Argentine capital, elated coach Robert du Preez had one word to encapsulate the win.
“Passion was the key,” the Sharks coach said.
“It was obviously absent against the Rebels and we knew that if we were going to finish on the right side of this very tough assignment, we were going to have to play with courage for 80 minutes.
“Obviously there were important aspects we had to get right from a technical point of view, but really this one was all about passion.”
Du Preez said that after the disappointment of the Rebels fiasco, it had worked out well that the players could get out of town and enjoy the cosmopolitan delights of the charming city of Buenos Aires.
He said the players had great fun in one of the world’s great cities when away from the training field and the team meetings, where the chief item on the agenda was “passion for the Sharks jersey”.
“The game had a huge significance in terms of our log position in our conference and the five points we took out of the game gives us an eight-point cushion over the Jaguares, and we are pleased that they did not get a bonus point,” Du Preez said.
“This last fortnight has shown the players once and for all that no team can be taken for granted. We have learned that the hard way, and we also saw this weekend that the Kings put 40 points past the Rebels (in Port Elizabeth), and we still have to play the Kings down there (in two weeks’ time) and they will be waiting for us ...”
But this week it is the Force at King’s Park on Saturday (3pm) that will have the attention of the Sharks. The Lions, nine points clear of the Sharks in Africa Conference 2, had a tough time putting the Western Australian team away in Perth at the weekend, and given the recent memories of the Rebels game, the Sharks will be desperate to back up their fine performance against the Jaguares.