DURBAN - With the Sharks out of action this past weekend, taking their second bye of the shortened Currie Cup, there was an opportunity to check out the competition. Unfortunately for those hoping the Sharks could stroll their way to the trophy, the opposition upped their game.
Western Province put on an exhibition in Johannesburg, pushing aside the Golden Lions in a high-scoring game, while the Blue Bulls secured their place in the semi-finals with their win at home against the Pumas. Even Griquas managed to notch up a half century of points against near neighbours, the Free State Cheetahs.
However, the Sharks will maintain that it is all about them, and what they can do in the remaining games, as well as the inevitable knockout games to come. It seems near impossible that the Sharks will not make the semis, having won three from three with a full house of points, but once the competition gets serious, will they be able to hoist the Cup?
The biggest issue dogging the Sharks, for more than just this tournament, has been their inability to take all the chances that they create. The Sharks’ style of play is exciting, physical and expansive, but their finishing has been sub-par.
A lack of patience when things get hot is part of the cause, as well as a tendency to force a pass, or make a silly mistake, for that final play. It is something that the coach has been trying to drum home, and something they will need to get right in the second of half of the competition.
Their first three games were not the most challenging, yet they never managed to rip the game away from the Bulls, Pumas, or Cheetahs. Against the Lions and especially Province, they will rue leaving any points on the field, especially if they are to meet them when finals rugby rolls around.
The Sharks also need to play to their potential. It is easy to say and difficult to implement, especially in a competition that is so watered down and seemingly irrelevant, but the Sharks’ Currie Cup squad would not look out of place in Super Rugby. Perhaps complacency is creeping in from some of the players who believe they should be in green and gold, rather than the B-side black jersey?
Still, with the Lions coming to Kings Park this week, before the Sharks head to Cape Town the following week, there is every chance for the men from Durban to lift their game for what should be their biggest test to date. Should they get up for the Lions, and then beat WP at Newlands, they will then have no reason not to reign supreme come October 27 in the final.