DURBAN – The Sharks are ensconced in the New Zealand holiday capital of Queenstown, and they deserve to put their feet up for a few days after they consolidated their win over the Waratahs with a draw against the champion Crusaders on Friday.
Queenstown nestles high up in the New Zealand Alps, and is a haven for adrenalin junkies, but for the Sharks it will be rest and recuperation before they travel to Hamilton for their tour finale against the Chiefs.
The 21-21 draw would have been bittersweet for the Sharks, considering they had the winning of the game until the final quarter, when the inevitable Crusaders onslaught saw them snatch a share of the spoils.
The Sharks have been a transformed team since they left behind two despairing defeats in Durban for the pressure-free environment of the Antipodes.
“For some reason, the Sharks always like touring, it really gets the boys together,” coach Robert du Preez said from Christchurch after the match.
“At home there is always pressure... The boys are in a good space now, the win in Sydney was very good for their confidence.
“It was heartbreaking in the end to not beat the Crusaders, but you can’t really argue with the three tries they scored (to the seven penalties kicked by Curwin Bosch).”
Bosch, in only his second start of the year at flyhalf, controlled matters brilliantly for the three quarters of the game he was in charge, before he was moved to fullback.
His probing kicks kept the Sharks in the right areas of the field, and with their forwards playing out of their collective skins, penalties were forced for Bosch to goal.
Crusaders v Sharks | Super Rugby 2019 Rd 12 Highlights— Super Rugby (@SuperRugby) May 3, 2019
The home winning streak’s at an end, but perseverance saw @crusadersrugby steal a draw against @The SharksZA in Christchurch, 21-21.#SuperRugby #CRUvSHA pic.twitter.com/mC0rxsHtVO
It did not matter that the Sharks were not scoring tries, because the game plan was about frustrating the home team and kicking the penalties that would come.
So kudos to the players for coming so close to beating a Crusaders team that had won 25 consecutive home games.
“I thought our kicking game was outstanding,” coach Du Preez said.
“Yes, the guys are disappointed. To come here and get a win is difficult, but on the other hand, we are pleased to get two points.”