Now ... can Sharks sustain that sparkle?

    2019-04-06 14:00

    Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer

    Cape Town - It would almost seem ungenerous to sound tempering notes after the Sharks produced probably the Super Rugby performance of the South African season, so far, at Ellis Park on Friday.

    Their eye-opening 42-5 thrashing of the Lions, considering they were away to last year’s tournament runners-up, arguably outshines even the Bulls’ 40-3 dismantling of the Stormers at Loftus on the opening weekend.

    The handsome six-tries-to-one triumph catapulted Robert du Preez’s charges to the top of the SA conference, although it could be less than a day’s reign there if the Bulls overcome the Jaguares in the Saturday clash in Pretoria.

    Still, it was a mighty statement from the Durban-based outfit ... and one that will spark plenty of confused “where had these guys been?” queries about them after several rather blunt, sterile showings either in victory or defeat during the 2019 campaign.

    Was this just another temporary peak on their rollercoaster ride? Bear in the mind that Friday’s result meant their record for the last four clashes now reads: win, loss, win, loss.

    So the key over the next fortnight, in which they have a couple of fairly tantalising fixtures at their home base of Kings Park, will be for them to keep their eye much more firmly on the ball and build on the enormously encouraging developments witnessed against a hapless Lions side curtailed to mere scraps in possession terms.

    This was the second notably heavy defeat for the Highveld outfit at home to domestic opponents this season; they were also pressed onto the back foot for alarmingly long spells in that 30-12 roasting from the Bulls in early March.

    The return of talismanic regular captain and No 8 Warren Whiteley cannot come quickly enough, especially as the Lions now have the daunting task of stepping onto a long-haul flight for successive Australasian clashes against the Brumbies, Chiefs and Crusaders – that spell could just blow their plans of qualifying for a fourth final on the trot this year right out of the water, if they are not careful.

    Whiteley revealed on a SuperSport rugby talk show a few days ago that he hopes to be back in action after several weeks of injury by game two of the trek, and once the rangy Springbok and naturally inspiring leader is at his post their loose trio will finally restore a better semblance of balance.

    Muscular blindside flank Cyle Brink made his own return from a lengthy absence against the Sharks, although he was understandably rusty and the Lions being pinned to their own territory so much hardly helped his quest to bring some of the “go forward” he is usually renowned for.

    But the Sharks certainly look the South African team with best potential to prosper consistently in the short term, as they are almost certain to enter their Durban games against the Jaguares (next Saturday) and then Reds (six days on) as pretty clear favourites after the champagne, collectively switched-on showing at a wet, greasy Ellis Park.

    Winning both those fixtures, as they should, would be a nice springboard for their own overseas tour immediately afterwards; it will be an immense disappointment to their long-suffering faithful if they trip up in either for a “back to square one” sort of situation.

    The Sharks produced powerful, fast-paced total rugby, if you like, for lengthy periods against their derby foes, and you were genuinely able to say they were impressive and passion-filled from jerseys one to 15: Tendai Mtawarira was all fire and brimstone in his record-breaking appearance for tournament longevity from the loosehead prop berth, and fullback Curwin Bosch the dazzling catalyst for much that was sharp and penetrative about the backline play as a whole.

    If there were media suggestions in midweek that sometimes marginalised Bosch has been in talks with Newlands about a possible shift to the Stormers next season, let’s just say that any in-house negotiations may gather considerable, fresh impetus now ...

    *Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing


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    Saturday, 20 April 2019
    • Highlanders v Blues, Forsyth Barr Stadium 09:35
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