DURBAN - There can be no faulting the Sharks’ Currie Cup position at the halfway stage of this shortened Currie Cup campaign. They have won three out of three games, all with bonus points, and are second on the standings to the Golden Lions who have a better points difference.
However, through the three games, against the Blue Bulls, Free State Cheetahs and Pumas, there has been little to suggest that the Sharks will waltz their way to the title without issue. This is especially true when you consider who they have left to face.
The next game for the Sharks, in a weeks time as they enjoy their second bye now, will be a tough encounter at home against the Lions. The Lions have beaten the Griquas, Bulls, and Cheetahs, and have done so scoring a lot of points each time. The attacking qualities of the Lions is what makes them a real threat, but at least for the Sharks, their pride is in defence, and at home, could probably nullify the Johannesburg-based team.
Western Province at Newlands could topple the apple cart for the Sharks as the men from the Cape are also undefeated, but they have only played two games - against the Cheetahs and Pumas. Against the Cheetahs, even in terrible weather conditions, Province were able to shut down the free-scoring Free Staters, who were at full strength.
Even the game against the Pumas looked to be a cakewalk for the traveling a WP team as they won 57-28. So, while the Sharks look set to certainly contend the semi-finals, and quite well make the final, especially with the squad they have on paper, there will still be some concern if they have what it takes to go all the way.
Sharks coach Robert du Preez has been forthright though, especially after a poor performance in Bloemfontein, in saying that he is looking for incremental improvement each game. There are three games left, and even the final clash against Griquas away will be tough, but improvement must be seen especially as the games become more challenging.
Victory in the Currie Cup will not only be a nice piece of silverware for the cabinet at Kings Park, it will also be a true sign of improvement from last year’s campaign, as well a fantastic platform to launch the 2019 edition of Super Rugby from.