Sharks could still top SA pile

2012-05-16 10:53

Cape Town – Around the middle of April, the Sharks looked perilously close to also-rans in this year’s Super Rugby competition.

On April 21, for instance, they slipped to a home defeat against the Chiefs despite opportunities to beat the then table-toppers, and more pessimistic Durban observers could have been forgiven for believing that nuisance value was all they might offer for the remainder of the ordinary-season campaign.

But then Keegan Daniel’s men had a bye, with the morale-boosting four free points associated with that little refreshment, began to look better in seeing off the Highlanders, and then got into try-scoring “floodgates” mode against the Force last Saturday – suggesting a fuller return to robust health.

The rosy result of that three-week period means that the unpredictable Sharks have shot into the six-strong playoff zone with five more assignments still ahead of them and a tally of 36 points from 11 games.

As things stand, they are still a fair way adrift of pace-setting South African compatriots the Bulls (46 points from 10 matches) and Stormers (45 from 10).

But that “climbing” pattern by the Sharks shows how quickly fortunes can swing in the competition, and there is fair reason to believe that if they stay in winning mode against the fading Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Saturday (17:05), further catch-up steps can be made.

Indeed, if you examine the remaining fixtures for John Plumtree’s charges, it is impossible not to contemplate the possibility – even if is only that – that they could sensationally finish top of the conference (and by extension very close to the peak overall) come the completion of Week 21 on Saturday, July 14.

Here is what’s left for them, keeping also in mind that they still have the luxury of one further bye with its bonanza quartet of points: Cheetahs (away), Stormers (home), Lions (away), Bulls (home), Cheetahs (home).

No-favours-granted derbies they may all be, but it means a minimum of travel and on current form I imagine most neutrals would be tempted to consider both Cheetahs matches and the Lions one notably winnable for the Durban-based outfit.

That leaves the all-important Stormers and Bulls obligations: a sobering thought for Sharks supporters is that both first-round matches against these teams were lost (18-13 at Loftus and 15-12 at Newlands, the latter thanks only to Peter Grant’s tricky-angled late penalty).

But both return fixtures will be at Mr Price Kings Park, and with the Sharks not only building a head of steam but mostly benefiting from “returns” rather than “exits” on the injury front, Daniel and company marching all the way to conference supremacy cannot be summarily written off.

We have already seen the value to them of Beast Mtawarira returning fresh and pumped-up from his layoff, and if a game-breaker like Ryan Kankowski also rediscovers some personal lustre over the next few weeks, they will only be in better fettle.

Much may depend on how the Bulls, especially, fare in their two tough, key remaining overseas matches against the Highlanders and Chiefs – should they win them both, which would mean a stunning 100% win record on tour, Pierre Spies’s team ought to retain a level of daylight on the table that is beyond the Sharks’ reel-in potential.

But a slip in one or both certainly could keep the Sharks well interested in a toppling job, provided that they emerge themselves from Saturday’s clash with that old bogey side in the Free State unscathed.

They will also be grateful that, despite having lost five times to the Stormers’ once, the last-named team’s rather pitiful struggle to amass bonus points is keeping the Sharks not insurmountably far off them, either – they have an 8-1 advantage over the Capetonians in that particular department.

Remaining games for SA’s top three sides:

Bulls: Highlanders (a), Chiefs (a), Stormers (h), Cheetahs (h), Sharks (a), Lions (h).

Stormers: Waratahs (h), Sharks (a), Bulls (a), Lions (h), Cheetahs (a), Rebels (h).

Sharks: Cheetahs (a), Stormers (h), Lions (a), bye, Bulls (h), Cheetahs (h).

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing


  • Paul - 2012-05-16 11:01

    Go Sharks!!!!!!!!!!!

      Dewald - 2012-05-16 12:46

      Yes, and Malema kan still be presedent!

      Saffa - 2012-05-16 12:57

      And you KAN still win a spelling Bee @Dewald...

      Dewald - 2012-05-16 13:00

      Dont worry, the Bulls will end your chances in Durban, and the Cheetahs always leave their best for the Sharks!

      John - 2012-05-16 13:03

      It is a real chance the Sharks can come through. They need to be careful of the Cheatahs. Many have torn into the Stormers for their performance last Saturday but nobody talks about how good the Cheatahs pack was in the 2nd half. Throw them a bone like the Stormers did and they will make it count.

      Christopher - 2012-05-16 14:10

      @Dewald...don't tempt fate!! Keep politics out of sport!!

      GrootWitHaai - 2012-05-16 15:57

      I kan like to be President.

  • Justfornewstwentyfour - 2012-05-16 11:02

    I mean, the "log toppers" bareley beat us at home - imagine what we will do to them in the shark tank?

      Harold - 2012-05-16 11:10

      Don't make me support the Stormers when they play you guys.

      Dewald - 2012-05-16 12:49

      You bareley win two games in a row! Bulls beat you more often than not in Durban anyway.

  • Paul Botha - 2012-05-16 11:06

    In your dreams !!

  • Nathan - 2012-05-16 11:10

    Possible but improbable, then again this is SuperRugby so who knows...

      Alan - 2012-05-16 11:14

      Pretty unlikely Rob - The Stormers and Bulls both playing fantastically. The Sharks once again are blowing hot and cold. Inconsistency is their biggest problem, and there is no way they are going to come close to the Stotmers or Bulls this year. Sorry Rob

      Nathan - 2012-05-16 11:24

      After this weekends derby a clearer picture will be painted as to where they're going, but don't write them off yet...

      adrien.mcguire - 2012-05-17 10:20

      @ Alan The Bulls have scrapped thru their last 3 games, each time nearly being pipped at the post. They are a good side but they can't play 80 minutes !

  • LaBlue - 2012-05-16 11:13

    Die Sharks moet probeer bly in 6de plek. Op die oomlik lyk dit of hulle dan die Brumbies sal speel wat 3de is. Dit is 'n baie makliker roete as wie ookal in no. 4 en 5. op eindig.

  • Hermann - 2012-05-16 11:18

    And you are assuming the Bulls and the stormers lose all of their next games? I would like to see the Sharks in the playoffs but I doubt they will make it to the top.

      Raymond - 2012-05-16 12:02

      It doesn't matter. AS long as we're (Sharks) in the final, that's where the glory lies.

  • Justin - 2012-05-16 11:26

    The Sharks are peaking at the right time, but Rob you must be smoking some strong stuff... We had some unusual results on the weekend, that worked hellavu well for the Sharks to end up in 6th. Importantly for SA, we now how 3 teams in top six, and if the Saders and Highlanders continue to drop points, there is no reason why we can't finish with three in the top 5. I'd say out of the remaining games, the one that worries me most is Vrystaat in bloem. We'll clean up the Bulls and Stormers at the shark tank though...

      Alan - 2012-05-16 11:58

      well Justin - I like the Sharks (actually I like all SA teams), but honestly I don't think the Sharks would do SA rugby justice if they got into the playoffs or finals. The Stormers and Bulls are playing consistently well, and good rugby at that, The Sharks seem to have a history of being inconsistent, and they choke when it matters. I cannot see them beating the Bulls or Stormers at the tank unless they happen to have one of their "once-off' blinders. On currrent form - they dont deserve to get through. That's my humble opinion anyway.

      Maxine - 2012-05-16 12:49

      Justin the sharks have won two trophies in the last 5 years! The bullls have one alot but the chockers are the Stormers!

  • sean.gosling - 2012-05-16 11:27

    Get Real Rob, its like saying if my auntie had balls she would be my uncle!!!!! She does not not so she is not.........come on, the Sharks finishing top of the SA conference is a pipeline dream at best. A lot of "if's" and "buts" I have to admire the enthusiasm thou even if it borders on fantasy.

      Denny - 2012-05-17 11:52

      What is a "pipeline dream"? :) It is very unlikely the Sharks will finish at the top. (Would be great as I support them though it would likely screw up my Superbru :p) I think they've got a reasonable shot at making playoffs now though if they string some consistency together.

  • Saffa - 2012-05-16 11:38

    So much can still happen......Any 'predictions' made at this stage are just that: predictions and wishes. Let's see which Top SA team loses the least players to the Boks in June....THAT is the SA team who will be able to make the strongest charge at the end. Dear Mr Meyer, please listen to these knuckledragging COSATUBULLS on these forums - they are true kenners. Maak die Bulle almal Bokke - asb. Thanking you - Stormers and Sharks.

      Harold - 2012-05-16 11:46

      That'll be the only way you lot beat us to the trophy.

      Saffa - 2012-05-16 11:56

      It might also be the most effective way in getting rid of you lot?

      Pierre - 2012-05-16 12:43

      Saffa-side, see youre reaching new lows on this site today. Pissed cause Cosatu threw bricks at your fearless leader?

      Saffa - 2012-05-16 12:59

      Returning serve @Pierre - just doing what the Bulls fans encourage........I thought you chaps would enjoy it....

      BlouMasjien - 2012-05-16 13:13

      @saffa,"It might also be the most effective way in getting rid of you lot? " Beteken dit, jy twyfel of die stormers dit kan doen?

      Pierre - 2012-05-16 13:13

      Enjoy a bit of wit mixed in with the nastyness. Just nasty, is well, nasty.

      Saffa - 2012-05-16 13:22

      @Pierre - At this stage, nasty people deserve nasty comments. Returning serve.....(if people are offended, then they deserve to be offended) I am certainly not being nasty to anyone who isn't quite literally BEGGING for it........Returning serve......

      Tokolos - 2012-05-16 13:40

      Oopsie.. Tokolos p#ssed off the PMS Drama Queen from the Cape Flats this morning.... HieHieHie!!!

  • aidan.w.naude - 2012-05-16 11:40

    For once I agree with Harold and many of the other Blue Bull fans - you are smoking some of the poison in Natal to even think they will catch the Stormers and the Bulls. Ridiculous article - what next The Lions can win the conference and make the playoffs.

  • Jed - 2012-05-16 11:41

    Is that a Pig flying over Kings Park?

      Alan - 2012-05-16 12:01

      nah - it's Div with his self-inflated Helium balloon.

      Raymond - 2012-05-16 12:05

      No, a pink cow flying out of Mr Price Kings Park.

  • Acta - 2012-05-16 12:01

    Yes Rob, it is possible, but I think you wasted time writing this article, Anybody who follows the tournament would of known all this and will tell you that it is unlikely. All the other people that doesn't follow the tourni won't bother reading this, so no disrespect but I think you wasted your time on this one. IMHO

  • John - 2012-05-16 12:15

    They are going to lose twice to the Cheetahs. Remember, you read it here first.

  • Luke - 2012-05-16 12:47

    The Sharks came close to beating the stormers & bulls away with a depleted team (beast, deysel, kanko, alberts, whitehead & ndungane all missing). It will be interesting to see how they perform at the Shark Tank taking into account they now seem to be at full strength. On the other hand it seems the stormers now are the ones with the injury crisis.

      wesley.g.mercer - 2012-05-16 14:46

      Agreed Luke' a lot of ppl dont seem to think when they type. I back all the S.A teams when they not playing the Sharks. They seem to back only 1 team and bad mouth every other S.A team. (I do struggle to support the bulls though. LOL)

  • Andre - 2012-05-16 13:09

    Interesting.However,that will only take place if the Bulls will lose all their games,which they wont.

      Andrew - 2012-05-16 13:24

      Lol. it will only take 2 losses from the bulls in order for us to overtake them. one against the Stormers at loftus, and one at kings park against the Sharks. though it could happen even earlier than that tbh, playing the Highlanders and Chiefs in NZ is no easy task, and you'll be lucky to even come away with a few losing bonus points.

  • Hannes - 2012-05-16 13:14

    Rob, kry jy nie warm in daai grapjas nie ...ha ha

  • patrickjasoncawood - 2012-05-16 13:21

    Only time will tell

  • edmund.rabe - 2012-05-16 14:05

    Let's hope the bulls and stormers lose as much as possible!

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