DURBAN - The log continues to be an absolute jam, and a weekend of action can shuffle the entire pack in terms of potential quarter-final places. For the Sharks, they were on the winning side of things, and have leapfrogged the Stormers and Bulls to sit third with 28 points.
The Lions still top the log - with their win against the Brumbies - with 36 points. The Jaguares are on 29 points, and thus, the Sharks are just one point back. Coming from the rear, the Bulls and Stormers are both four points back.
It was a must win game against the Chiefs on Saturday, and the 28-24 victory at Kings Park for the home side certainly got the job done, even if it flattered the Chiefs a bit. The Sharks’ performance was good, but more than that, they struck while their opponents faltered.
The Stormers lost in surprising fashion to the Sunwolves, effectively cutting them out of the race for quarter-final positions. Then the Bulls were blown away by the Sharks’ next opponents, the Jaguares, in Argentina by 30 points.
But in Durban, the homeside made it three wins from four against New Zealand opposition, which, in the broader context of things, makes them qualifying for the play-offs all that more important. Should the Sharks sneak into the quarter-final, there is a huge chance they will take on a Kiwi side, and that will only motivate the team.
For coach Robert du Preez, he admits that their win puts them “properly back on track” in their campaign, but this was even before he was aware of the Bulls result.
“It is a great result,” Du Preez said with the hint of a smile. “We needed this game badly to get our campaign properly back on track, so I am really pleased with the result.”
The Chiefs did make the Sharks work for the result, and despite being dominant for most of it, the game was a close run thing in the end. The New Zealand side were severely understrength too, but that did not necessarily make them a push-over.
“We were talking about it the whole week,” Du Preez explained. “They are very physical, and the guys that came in, filling in for the All Blacks, they have done really well and for them this was an opportunity so we knew it was going to be really tough.”
“A hell of a tough game though, they are a really physical side, but I am really pleased with the performance, there were a couple opportunities that we did not take, and that is something that we need to work on.”
Indeed, the Sharks will need to make sure they are sharper heading into this week’s game.
The Sharks will be leaving for Argentina on Monday evening, and the team is already preparing for what will be a big physical test, and an attritional battle, in the knowledge that every game needs to be won from here on out.
“We have to win every game, that is our aim,” Du Preez added. “But we want to enjoy tonight (Saturday), it is a good victory, and then we will take on the Jags next weekend.”