DURBAN – The plan returning from the June break was to win every remaining game - against the Lions, Stormers and Jaguares - in order to make the play-offs.
That plan, however, took a big hit in Cape Town when the Sharks shot themselves in the foot somewhat by going down to the Stormers.
However, the way in which the penultimate round has played itself out means that the Durban-based outfit still have a mathematical chance to make the knockout stage by sneaking into the top eight of the Super Rugby competition.
All eyes will be on Dunedin on Saturday morning as the first hurdle for the Sharks lines itself up.
Should the Highlanders beat the Rebels at home, they will leave the door open for the Sharks for a top eight finish.
However, the pressure will then squarely shift to Durban as the home side will still need a win over the rampant Jaguares in the final fixture of the round robin stages.
Currently, the Rebels are three points ahead of the Sharks, sitting in eighth, and thus, only a loss for them and a win for the Sharks will see a change at the bottom of the quarter-final stakes.
The Sharks will feel that this mathematical possibility of making the knockouts is not too far out of their reach as the Highlanders will be favourites to win at home against the stuttering Rebels.
However, the Sharks will be without their dynamic twin duo of Jean-Luc du Preez, injured against the Lions, as well as Daniel, who was stretchered off in Cape Town.
Coach Robert du Preez was absent from the post-match press conference to be at Daniel’s bedside, so in his stead assistant coach Dick Muir faced up to the media.
“We did shoot ourselves in the foot a bit as our destiny was in our own hands and now it is not,” said Muir.
He went on to address a key concern that the Sharks have had all season, their consistency. “It has been a problem for us all season,” he said.
“We have one good game and then one bad one, we have one good half and then a bad half. We have some work to do in order to find out what is contributing to that. “I think what went wrong was a combination of factors. We had decided to play wide to wide as we felt there were areas in the Stormers game that we could exploit. Maybe we tried to play a bit too much rugby. “
The Sharks will hope that they can use their up and down form to their advantage on Saturday, however, in trying to bounce back from the Stormers loss to overhaul the Jaguares for that coveted spot in the quarter-finals.@DarrynJack216