DURBAN - It seems quite apt that the Sharks, who had a huge continent of Rassie Erasmus’s Springboks in their match day squad, managed to pull off a stunning come-from-behind victory against the Lions on Saturday, 31-24.
The Sharks, trailing 11-21 at half time against the visiting African conference leaders, put up a massive defensive effort to keep themselves in touch up until the 60 minute mark. After scoring the first try in the opening few minutes, the Sharks were under the cosh, but their defence allowed them to mount a comeback. The comeback may not have looked exactly like the Boks’ efforts in Johannesburg and Bloemfontein which were much more predicated on counter attacking, but the character and belief showed by the men in black had hints of the Bok attitude.
In the week, the likes of Beast Mtawarira and Sbu Nkosi spoke about how much they had learnt in the Springbok squad, and that they were hoping to bring those lessons back to Durban. That fighting spirit witnessed against England was definitely lingering in Durban as the Sharks did all they could without the ball to frustrate and blunt the Lions who had most of the territory and possession.
For the coach, it was a fightback that was worthy of praise, not only because it made for a good spectacle for those who made their way to Kings Park, but also because it kept the Sharks in the running for a quarterfinal place. In fact, if things were to go perfectly for the Sharks, they can still top the African conference. However, it would require a bonus point win at Newlands this week, as well as one against the Jaguares the following week. They will also need the Lions to lose their final game against the Bulls.
“I knew that we would need a special performance and a really big fightback from the boys,” Sharks coach Robert du Preez said after the match. “I just asked them to play for each other and to fight for each other and that is what they did. I think we were probably a little bit high in our setup in the beginning. There was probably not enough speed in our setup, but we sorted that out. I think there was a vast improvement in the second half.”
Du Preez also identified the defensive attitude and effort as the key factors in turning the game around because it burnt the Lions out.