DURBAN – Saturday’s 39-33 defeat to the Bulls obviously goes down as a loss, plain and simple, but this is no 40-10 destruction like last time. Also, more importantly, the play-offs are still in sight for the Sharks as they ready themselves for a clash against their fourth and final Kiwi side of the group stages, the Chiefs.
Talking about luck in a professional rugby atmosphere really doesn’t cut the mustard as it often sounds like excuse making, but things really did not go the way of the Sharks at Loftus.
Instead of picking up the first try of the match, they were rather dished out a yellow card, as the TMO went back to spot Curwin Bosch throwing out a leg which tripped up his opposite number Warrick Gelant.
There is no doubt it was the right call, but it was also a momentous hammer-blow for the visitors.
“Very costly,” coach Robert du Preez said of that early yellow card. “Our discipline let us down early on in the game, 18 points down, a deficit like that It was always going to be difficult to come back from.”
However, the Sharks did come back, even though it was not good enough, they did show a lot of character to fight back from an awful start, and poor first half, to show some fire in the second stanza; something they have not been known for all season long.
“For the boys to come back from a 17-point deficit and to be right in it till the death, I have to commend them for that,” Du Preez said, looking at the positives. That showed a massive fighting spirit. This is a great team and we will go a long way.”
Next up they face the Chiefs, at home, and it will be a new kind of challenge as the favourites tag will be squarely around their neck.
They have impressed in New Zealand on tour, and they have destroyed the Highlanders on home turf, so now, the expectation will be for the Sharks to do the same against the Waikato side at 3pm on Saturday.
Not only will the pressure of expectation be there, but also the log pressure is getting immense with the Jaguares, Bulls, and Sharks, all sitting on 24 points, behind the Lions with 31.
The Stormers seem to have all but tossed themselves out of a chance at the play-offs with their first loss at home against the Chiefs last weekend.
But there is a lot for the Sharks to take forward from this Bulls loss, heading into the high pressure encounter against the Chiefs.
The Sharks have shown they can bounce back despite the most disruptive and morale-draining start; they have also proved their physicality is almost unmatched.
“It was a South African derby,” Du Preez summarised. “I thought the pack was really physical, and dominant, and the intensity was there."
“But we battled to get into our shape, maybe passing the ball away too quickly, and we couldn’t get our structure going nicely in attack.”