DURBAN – A bit like the Lions all season long, fans of the Sharks often wonder which team will rock up when the first whistle is blown. Having been erratic throughout, the Sharks have shown that they can turn up for the big games, and that was the case on Saturday against the visiting side from Johannesburg.
The Sharks trailed at halftime by 10 on the scoreboard, but on the field, that gulf must have felt like fifty points because of the manner in which the Lions dominated the game. It was only on the hour mark that the Sharks’ character started to show as they turned their resolute defence into a counter attacking platform.
It has been easy for the Sharks in games gone by to simply roll over when the going has gotten too tough. But, knowing a loss to the Lions would end their season at the group stages, the Sharks showed their true character.
“It showed a lot of character, it showed the hunger and determination that there is within this group,” assistant coach Dick Muir said on Monday. “We are disappointed where we stand in the log, and the early losses that we had in the competition, but we are gaining some good momentum now so it will be good to carry that momentum into the Stormers game.”
Muir also makes mention how this Sharks team has sometimes struggled with the mental side of the game this season, but adds that they are maturing through the year, and it is showing.
“It is a combination of things, it is a young group of guys, so they are finding their feet and settling down, so there are going to be teething problems, but I think we have sorted a lot of those things out and we are looking in a really good place now,” Muir added.
The Sharks know however that their race is not over, and that f they are to make it to the play-offs, they still have to impress in the upcoming two weeks.
They travel to Cape Town to meet the Stormers this week in another game that will have a lot to say in where the Sharks end up. The Cape side are certainly out of the running, however, they are dangerous at home, and perhaps even more dangerous with nothing left to play for.
“The Stormers are a dangerous side, we saw that when we played them here, it was very much anybody’s game - so it will be a hell of a test for our guys and a great character test because they have nothing to play for really, other than pride, and we still have something to play for,” said Muir.
The Sharks will have to take on the Stormers with a few key men missing from their side. Jean-Luc du Preez had to leave the field early against the lions and looks like he won’t be making the trip to Cape Town.
Another big loss is in-form, and now Springbok, hooker Akker van der Merwe who picked up yet another man of the match performance against his old club last week.
“We are sitting with two injury concerns. Jean-Luc, who injured himself on the day, and also Akker van der Merwe, who injured his shoulder, those are two big potential losses for us, but the guys who can step into those positions will be excited and hungry,” Muir concluded.