The Sharks’ coaching staff have been saying for weeks that their charges have been millimetres away from clicking and playing seriously good rugby, and last week that was the repeated refrain from coach Robert du Preez.
It helped that the Blues are by some distance the worst of the Kiwi teams but full credit to the Sharks for raising themselves to delivering a blistering performance at Eden Park. However way you look at it, 63 points posted against a Kiwi team in New Zealand is worthy of high praise.
Du Preez said it had been a tough fortnight in Australia but the players had not lacked in effort, so he felt a quality performance was not far off.
“Our week’s preparation for the Blues was all about accuracy, which had been sorely lacking in the losses to the Brumbies and Rebels,” Du Preez said. “Also, I wanted the guys to go out and really enjoy themselves.
"You could see in Australia that they were nervous and had a fear of failure. The instruction was to have a full go and not hold back in trying the exciting things they do routinely in practice.”
The Sharks have had a remarkable record against the Blues over the years and had won four of their last five matches at Eden Park but as Du Preez pointed out: “When we were last here, two years ago, we lost by a point, so our good record did not count for much. We just geared up to get a win under the belt.”
The Sharks were given a stern test of character early in the second half when a flurry of Blues tries put them 28-26 ahead with half an hour to play.
“My heart sank,” Du Preez admitted. “I could not believe we were letting them off the hook. But the boys came back and stuck at it. It really helped us that Robert du Preez was hitting the ball so sweetly at posts. He did not miss a kick - 13 out of 13.”
The loose forwards were immense. No 8 Tera Mtembu and flanks Jean-Luc du Preez and Philip van der Walt led the way.
“I thought they were really good,” Du Preez said. “It made a big difference having Philip come back from injury and play with courage and leadership. He was exceptional. We’d been lacking in leadership and he was influential in that department.”
Du Preez agreed the game was just about make-or-break for the Sharks: “We needed this win to turn our campaign around. It is not going to get any easier. We have the Hurricanes on Friday. They are a quality side, probably the best in Super Rugby, but we will take a lot of confidence into the game.”