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