A mixed bag of results
Sport24 columnist Ross Skeate (File)
A mixed bag. That’s exactly how I would describe our season so far. But I guess when we had a look at the draw in the opening stages we knew that we were in for a tricky start to the competition. And that certainly hasn’t let up at any stage.
Starting the majority of the season playing away from home translates into an inability to form solid winning momentum by knocking over a few teams with your home crowd behind you.
Not that we aren’t the kind of team that can’t win away from home - we’ve proved that in past competitions and this one is no different - but the nature of the tournament has evolved over the last few years to make a team’s home games of paramount importance. Starting the season with the draw we have had has resulted in things being a little more difficult.
Of course, with that in mind we’ve been our own worst enemies. Heading to Loftus for our opening battle was an awesome opportunity that we unfortunately didn’t capitalize on. It was all the more frustrating as we had the game by the scruff of the neck before making a few mortal errors, which the Bulls were all too happy to pounce on.
Coming away from Loftus with four points would have been a great start to the season, but instead we had a nice hard video session to enjoy that Monday.
Those vital mistakes continued to haunt us moving forward as we let ourselves down the very next week at Newlands. Our high error rate and penalty count allowed Peter Grant to come off the bench and slot one at the death.
Those two near losses had they gone our way (and when we look back we shall feel as though they should have) would have meant a completely different opening few weeks to this year’s Super rugby party.
Strange that looking back at these games feels like a lifetime ago, but I guess that’s the nature of rugby. Each week feels like a month in itself, but unfortunately our tendency towards gifting the opposition turnovers through simple errors has stayed with us.
And what that has meant is a few more near misses against the Tahs and the Chiefs, all the more disappointing, as the Chiefs match was a home game, something that has been a rare commodity so far in our season.
A great two wins on tour against the Blues and Brumbies, as well as all those near-miss bonus points have meant a sunnier outlook than had we been unsuccessful on tour, and a slightly better log-standing.
As it stands, we’ve won four and lost five. Although there surely is a lot of rugby to be played, our current position of seventh on the log needs to improve over the next few weeks if we have any realistic chance of going into the playoffs in a strong position.
What is positive is much of that is in our own hands as we go into a bit of a home game stretch now during this month of May. And with the large June break for the inbound Tests looming, we know that the next four games, Highlanders, Force, Cheetahs and Stormers, need to be ones where we come out the other side smiling.
This coming weekend sees the Highlanders visit the Shark Tank. No doubt, they will want to capitalize on the momentum of their come-from-behind victory against the Cheetahs last weekend. It'll be our mission to stop them and in so doing pick up some vital home points.
Expect a match full of fire and brimstone as both the Highlanders and us here in Durban pride ourselves on our physicality. We'll have to look after our ball at ruck time as the Highlanders have targeted their opposition throughout the season, as soon as the ball has hit the deck.
We'll also have to get our defence and offence firing on all cylinders; as well as cut down on that error rate to come away with the big win and hopefully a good batch of points.
Certainly in a tournament like this one it’s the second half and latter stages where all is won or lost, and with a far more favourable run to look forward to as well as the return of a few Boks from injury, we’ll be looking to end nice and strong.
While a little neck surgery will rule me out of action for this one and a few to follow - doctor’s orders - I’ll catch you all at the Tank over the next few weeks. It’s going to be awesome!Ross Skeate plays lock for the Sharks and represented the emerging Springboks in 2007.
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