S15: SA teams thriving abroad

    2012-04-13 12:41
    Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
    Cape Town – Clearly imperfect they may remain, but the Sharks have a beating heart ... and can now claim to have completed a successful overseas tour in Super Rugby.

    GALLERY: Blues v Sharks

    On Friday they emulated the Cheetahs’ 2012 record in Australasia, deservedly beating the embattled Blues 29-23 with a bonus point to boast a highly respectable tally of two wins from four matches abroad.

    As a result the Sharks have nudged their way back into the top half of the overall table for the time being, and have the satisfaction of knowing that all eight remaining matches for them in the second half of ordinary season will be back on domestic terrain -- and overwhelmingly in Durban.

    They must raise themselves one last time after the exertions of their travels for the encounter with the in-form Chiefs next weekend at Mr Price Kings Park, before having a well-earned bye.

    Not too many years ago, just about any South African side in the competition would have given an arm and a leg to return from New Zealand and Australia with a 50% win record; now it is happily occurring rather more often.

    As things stand in the current campaign, teams from our shores have played nine matches overseas, and emerged victorious from five of them.

    Apart from the two triumphs each by the Sharks and Cheetahs, the Stormers won their first tour assignment against the Highlanders and now await the titanic encounter with the Crusaders on Saturday morning (09:35 SA time).

    Two South African teams have not yet embarked on the long-haul, the Bulls and Lions (who play each other on Saturday evening), and as things stand the latter-named outfit look vulnerable to adversely affecting  the rosy state of SA affairs “on the road”.

    But even they may find that going overseas actually eases the various home pressures on them – last year against the odds they also earned two wins abroad.

    Here is a reminder of the winning performances overseas thus far in 2012, in receding order: Blues 23 Sharks 29, Highlanders 6 Stormers 21, Brumbies 26 Sharks 29, Hurricanes 38 Cheetahs 47, Rebels 26 Cheetahs 33.

    It seems apparent that, more and more, our teams are genuinely beginning to embrace touring as a pleasure rather than a burden.

     When the Stormers saw off the Highlanders last week straight after a particularly murderous slog from Cape Town to Dunedin, their performance rather flew in the face of the argument that you are especially susceptible to defeat immediately after switching time zones to a major degree.

    And after the Sharks’ heroics on Friday, so much for the theory (I admit I’d harboured this fear in the lead-up to the Auckland encounter myself) that you may mentally have “one foot on the plane” at the end of the overseas leg.

    Keegan Daniel and company – the skipper has set a magnificent example with his dynamism and energy throughout the few Antipodean weeks – actually played more intelligently and purposefully in the second half against the Blues, when they might instead have been excused for their legs just “going” a bit.

    This was by no means a flawless showing by the Sharks against a dreadfully spooked, crisis-torn Blues side: they remain error-prone and sometimes still indecisive in the first-time tackle, which can cause unnecessary scrambling angst.

    But all they will care about in the immediate aftermath is that they pluckily banked a healthy five points before the trip back to the welcoming warmth of KwaZulu-Natal ...

    *Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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