Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Cape Town – The Stormers may have won the South African
conference but it is the Sharks who seem to be commanding special respect in
Super Rugby’s late season from the other regions in the SANZAR alliance.
The dominating nature of their performance in thumping
domestic rivals the Bulls 32-10 at Mr Price Kings Park on Friday night made
critics in New Zealand and Australia sit up and take notice, despite the fact
that they remain a tenuous sixth on the overall table and may still have work
to do against the Cheetahs this Saturday to ensure a playoffs berth.
“More storming than the Stormers,” was the tribute from
Chris Rattue of the New Zealand Herald.
“The Sharks have to be taken seriously on this form, and
could be among three South African teams in the playoffs.
“Led by their fantastic front row, the Sharks – even with a
couple of top players missing – demolished the Bulls, whose own title
credentials were severely tarnished.
“The Stormers head the South African challenge but are
incapable of this quality: the Sharks would have to win the title the hard way
but are good enough to do so judging by what we saw over the weekend.”
Of course many Stormers enthusiasts may be bemused by this
sudden high rating from afar of the unpredictable Durban-based side, who have
lost four more times than Jean de Villiers’s men in ordinary season.
Rattue also awarded hooker Bismarck du Plessis his mantle of
“Super Rugby forward of the week”, describing him thus: “The Bismarck that
never sinks. The South African hooker is a cross between a motorway pillar and
Fitzy (All Black No 2 legend Sean Fitzpatrick).
“Du Plessis led the assault on the Bulls, who took a
backward step. He ploughed right through Zane Kirchner for the opening try and
the Sharks never looked back.”
Meanwhile across the “ditch” in Australia’s Sydney Morning
Herald, scribe Paul Cully pointed to the likelihood of the Sharks travelling to
meet the Brumbies in the earliest part of the playoffs phase.
“The Sharks will present the Brumbies with a significant
challenge if they meet in the qualifiers in Canberra.
“The Brumbies are further advanced at this stage of Jake
White’s tenure than perhaps even the coach imagined (but) they aren’t ready to
win this competition.”
Both the Bulls and Sharks may yet require bonus-point home
victories over the Lions and Cheetahs respectively if they are to advance in
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