Sharks had less than a joyride in a roller-coaster season
DURBAN – In a season with much inconsistency, it is a good idea to go back through the 17 games the Sharks played, as well as different times in their season, and pick out what made them shine, and what needs to change.
There were certain games that made the entire rugby world sit up and notice the men from Durban, but then there were the games which made those in Durban want to bury their head in the sand.
But there were also some instances where the Sharks made the fans proud off the field, and those should also be commended in a season that had a lot more in it than just results.
- Breaking the New Zealand hoodoo
The best thing that came from the Sharks was their performances against the New Zealand sides.
They managed to beat three out of the five teams, and it is almost painful to call the Hurricanes result a loss as to how close it was.
In comparison, the Lions, who are the best placed South African side, did not manage a single win, not even at home to the Blues.
The Jaguares were probably the next best side as they beat the Chiefs and Blues away from home.
But the Sharks were free in their attack in Auckland, as they scored 60-odd points, then steely in their defeat in Napier by one point five minutes into injury time.
They then came back to Kings Park and dispatched the Chiefs and Highlanders as easy as if it had been scripted before the games even kicked off.
— Super Rugby (@SuperRugby) July 14, 2018
- Building Boks
The past two years for the Springboks have seen a majority of the squad being made up of those from Johannesburg. But in Rassie Erasmus’ first squad, the Sharks took pride of place.
It is testament to the Sharks’ management who have been putting a lot of effort into nurturing youngsters with talent rather than snapping up big name marquee players.
The likes of Curwin Bosch and Andre Esterhuizen are SA Under-20 stars who fit the Sharks mould whereas Lukhanyo Am has been walked through his growth at the Sharks who saw it right to blood him on loan to the Kings.
All in all 14 players made it into the initial squad and spent some time with the Springbok coach with a number of them shining against England, such as Beast Mtawarira and the very impressive Sbu Nkosi , who also shone for the Boks.
Lukhanyo Am is one of the Sharks new, young Springboks. Photo: Iain McGregor / www.photosport.nz
- Land Down Under
If the Sharks were good in New Zealand they were woeful in Australia.
The games against the Brumbies and the Rebels were not only bad results, they were cagey and disjointed performances as the Australians ran riot.
What made it even more displeasing was the way in which the Sharks drew to the Waratahs two weeks before going on that tour.
They held the game in the palm of their hands only to let the Sydney side back in to snatch victory away from them, leaving it as a sour-tasting draw.
Robert du Preez of the Sharks dejected near the end of the game against the Crusaders in Christchurch. Photo: Iain McGregor / www.photosport.nz
- Unfulfilled potential
Part of the fun before the season was picturing how the Sharks would choose a backline from the plethora of exciting talent they had at their disposal, not to mention the grunt up front.
However, the talent on paper never came to fruition in terms of a team effort as the Sharks were forced to settle for the exact same script for the third year running; eighth spot, into the quarters against the top side before bowing out.