Durban - Sharks coach John Plumtree hailed the “guts and commitment” displayed by his side following their extraordinary turnaround in Saturday’s Super Rugby encounter against the Reds here.
The coastal side trailed 17-0 after 32 minutes at Kings Park and were seemingly destined for a third loss in four games, before they hit back to win 27-22.
Early tries by James Hanson and Scott Higginbotham gave the defending champions a strong advantage, with the home side looking shell-shocked as they struggled to come to terms with the sweet hands and pace of their Australian counterparts.
“At 17-0 down, they were playing so well," Plumtree said.
"At the time we were giving them easy metres, 40m gains, and when they got deep in our half they were accurate and put us under pressure.
“They were a handful to defend against.”
Jandre Marais, however, scored before half-time and further tries by Keegan Daniel and Riaan Viljoen capped a vital win ahead of a gruelling four-week trip to Australia and New Zealand.
“To hit back was really important for our confidence going into half-time,” Plumtree said.
“The whole game was characterised by some outstanding attack and gutsy defence from both sides.”
The Sharks boss hailed the character of captain Daniel and his deputy, Bismarck du Plessis.
“It was important for our leadership to identify that they needed to do to get back into the game and to identify what we were doing wrong when we were down,” Plumtree said.
“We put doubt into the Reds’ minds, and it took a lot of guts from us.
“This was a brave win. Sometimes you get a special performance, needing more than what you can produce from training.
"It takes guts and commitment and that’s what we got in this game.”
The Sharks departed for Sydney on Sunday morning with a 25-man squad, though uncertainty remained over the availability of Springbok winger JP Pietersen, lock Steven Sykes and prop Wiehahn Herbst.
Pietersen was forced to miss the Reds clash after pulling up in the warm-up, while Sykes and Herbst had to be hauled off during the game because of injuries.
“He [Sykes] has a medial something in his knee and will have a scan on Sunday,” Plumtree said.
"JP had a hip flexor tightened up and he pulled up in the warm-up, but he’ll be on the plane."
Plumtree said Springbok forward Jean Deysel had been left behind in order to prove his fitness in the Vodacom Cup.
Sharks touring squad: Meyer Bosman, Paul Jordaan, Marius Joubert, Patrick Lambie, Louis Ludik, Charl McLeod, Frederic Michalak, Lwazi Mvovo, Odwa Ndungane, JP Pietersen, Riaan Viljoen, Tim Whitehead, Janro van Niekerk, Willem Alberts, Jacques Botes, Anton Bresler, Craig Burden, Dale Chadwick, Marcell Coetzee, Keegan Daniel (captain), Bismarck du Plessis, Jannie du Plessis, Wiehahn Herbst, Jandre Marais, Steven Sykes.