Sharks can do it!
Sport24 columnist Tank Lanning (File)
What a truly legendary run of form for South African sport ... First we had Hashim Amla posting our first ever Test 300, then we had Ernie Els sipping from the Claret jug, then Cameron van Der Burgh breast stroking his way to gold in London, and on Tuesday Chad le Clos out reached the legend that is Michael Phelps to pip him by 5 hundredths of a second to bring home another Olympic gold ...
Is it in the stars? Could the Sharks defy the travel gods and turn the “Fab Four” into the “Fantabulous Five” by beating the Chiefs in Hamilton on Saturday? It would be an odds and history defying performance of a super human nature, but you know what, I think they can do it!
Yes, this from the same guy who said that it would take “Something special” to beat a Kiwi side in New Zealand, and that none of the SA sides had that “Something special”. I was wrong ...
Said before the Super Rugby quarter finals, I could not see the Bulls beating the Crusaders in Christchurch, or the Stormers winning a playoff game no matter where it was played. So I got two things right, but boy was I wrong about the Sharks!
To be honest, I had written the Sharks off as I could not see them beating the Brumbies in Canberra without Pat Lambie and Frans Steyn, but then Jake White’s boys came unstuck against the Blues, and it was the Reds, without Quade Cooper, who became the Sharks first obstacle in the playoffs.
I still think the Brumbies would have been a tougher obstacle for the Sharks, but in Brisbane that weekend, the Sharks arrived. Willem Alberts was inspirational at lock, Tim Whitehead and Paul Jordaan were on fire, Ryan Kankowski proved there is lots of life beyond Pierre Spies, but most importantly in my book, they brought a virtually impenetrable and aggressive defense to the party. Something that had definitely been missing earlier in the season.
So they added a steely defence similar to the one that the Stormers have relied on all season to a world class front row and a backline with not only the ability to attack from anywhere, but perhaps more importantly, the want to do so. And as such, even with a trip back to the republic, they were able to bully a one dimensional Stormers side who yet again failed at the final hurdle.
And while the Chiefs will be an altogether tougher side to conquer – being at home obviously, but also being a side with the capability to attack the Sharks with pace, power and skill from almost anywhere – it takes something special to do what the Sharks have done in the last two weeks.
Special in that they are now a group playing for each other (rather than just in a team together) - and enjoying it, and special in that they have amongst themselves a few players right on top of their game. Two weeks ago I had only Bismarck du Plessis in a fictitious Super Rugby team of the year … Now all of Beast Mtawarira, Willem Alberts, Marcell Coetzee, Ryan Kankowski, Freddie Michalak, and JP Pietersen would be pushing for selection!
Look, their travel schedule borders on the insane, but they seem to have really embraced it – arriving in Cape town a day earlier than they normally do last week, and this week spending time in a resort they like in Sydney before crossing the Tasman. They have had injuries to Pat Lambie and, Paul Jordaan and now Tim Whitehead, and they were barred from using Frans Steyn in the playoffs, yet every time they seem to have made a plan.
This against the form half back pairing in the tournament, a loosehead prop who has scored more tries than the entire Stormers team, and an inside centre who has completely changed the way rugby is played (outside of Cape Town that is) …
No one said it would be easy, but perhaps the South African sporting stars are aligned … Bring on the “Fantabulous Five” …Tank is a former Western Province tighthead prop who now heads up Tankman Media, and sprouts forth on all things rugby on the Front Row GruntDisclaimer:
Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.