They have two hurdles to get through today: first they will hope the depleted Highlanders beat the Rebels (which they did) and then they have to beat the Jaguares at Kings Park today at 5.15pm.
If the Sharks manage this, they will be through to the quarter-finals for the third year in a row – with another eighth spot finish. This will give them a chance to become heroes, as they would have to beat the top ranked team – probably the Crusaders – to make the semi-finals.
However, if they are not able to make that legendary leap and stun many by beating the best side in the competition, they can at least say they have not gone backwards. But if things go badly in Dunedin, or the Jaguares roar into life, the Sharks will indeed have gone backwards, in regards to their placing.
The Durban-based side have grown in many respects regardless of where they finish this season. The amount of young talent they have unearthed in the past few seasons is staggering – the proof of that pudding being the major representation of Sharks players in the June Bok squad.
But fans are very much results driven, and they would be hoping that with all the promise and the talent that their team would be challenging for the finals, not hoping to scrape through off the backs of the Highlanders’ hard work.
It has been a season of inconsistencies that have plagued the team though, winning the tough games and flopping on the easy ones. It points to an issue of mental fortitude rather than a problem on the pitch.
Then again, it is a young squad, who are learning all the time. Many of the youngsters still have a year or two left on their contracts and the potential for growth next year is much bigger than even at the beginning of this season.
Before the Sharks start looking at potential quarter-finals, or even next year’s efforts, they will need to just hone in on what they can do today. Regardless of the result in Dunedin, the Sharks will need to beat the Jaguares for a knock-out place, or at least for pride.
That is easier said than done as the Jagaures, still new faces in the competition, have finally found their feet. They have performed admirably this season, and could still earn a home quarter-final if they win in Durban and the Lions lose to the Bulls.
So, for the Sharks, they will be up against a fiery Argentine side not only looking to give themselves a chance at topping the African conference, but a team hungry to bounce back after a loss to the Bulls in Pretoria.
Luckily for the Sharks, they have the services of Dan du Preez, who looked to have taken a serious knock against the Stormers. He is fit after pinching a nerve. They will be without star wing Sbu Nkosi with the Springbok flyer injuring his ankle which means eight weeks on the sidelines.