DURBAN – One of the most frustrating hallmarks of the Sharks’ season this year has been their lack of consistency. They have managed to pull off unlikely and impressive wins when the pressure is on, but also have crumbled just when one feels they are at their pinnacle.
The loss in Cape Town highlighted this somewhat as the Durban-based side went from a stunning come-from-behind win against the Lions, shattering their long-standing record against South African opposition, to missing out on a number of chances against the Stormers. However, they were lucky in many respects that the loss did not cost them their shot at knock-out rugby as some of the other teams did them a few favours.
Sharks fullback Curwin Bosch makes mention of how the Bulls, by beating the Jaguares, and even the Reds, by halting the Rebels, left the door slightly ajar for the Sharks.
“We shot ourselves in the foot last week,” Bosch said earnestly. “Everyone did us a favour except ourselves! So the team realises that they have a second opportunity now and that does not happen very often in a competition of this nature. We are looking forward to the challenge, it will be good for this young group of players.”
The Sharks have got another shot at making the top eight, but it has a caveat. It is all dependant on the outcome of the Highlanders and Rebels match. The Australian side have a three point lead over the Sharks and sit in that final knock-out spot, but if they lose in Dunedin and the Sharks win at home, they will swap places.
There is thus a lot of pressure on the Sharks, but for Bosch, that is something his side relishes. “There is definitely a little bit of pressure, but this team has always done well under pressure,” Bosch said.
The Sharks would have had to look deeply at what happened in Cape Town, however, ahead of their clash with the Argentine side as they cannot let it go that way for this final game. For Bosch, what the recent loss comes down to is quite obvious - it was missed opportunities.
“It is a simple thing that let us down in Cape Town,” Bosch began explaining. “We created plenty of opportunities but we did not convert them. There were many chances where we could have put the Stormers away but just the execution let us down. The final pass not going to hand, the kick that was not meant to be, but it comes down to execution and patience in our game plan.”
Now, as it happens, both sides playing in Durban on Saturday are looking to bounce back off a loss, which should make them both step up their game somewhat. However, the Jaguares took more of a knock in their loss against the Bulls as they were leading, and had a seven-game win streak going.
“They are coming off a loss and are hurting, but it is the same for us,” Bosch said. “We are coming off a game we think we should have won, and I think they also believe that with the Bulls result. It is going to be a tough challenge for us, but we know how important it is and we hope we can pull it through.”
The Sharks will be without Jean-Luc du Preez, who was injured against the Lions, but they are waiting for news on his brother Dan who was stretchered off in Cape Town. It turns out it was a pinched nerve and if he makes it through training he could be in contention for this final group stage game.