Sharks down, but not daunted by Crusaders clash
Durban - Their defeat to the Stormers prevented their destiny being in their hands, but should the Sharks win through to the Super Rugby playoffs, they will not be daunted by the prospect of a trip to New Zealand, according to the supersport.com website.
What needs to happen in order for the Sharks to qualify for what many would consider the bogey prize of a trip to Christchurch for a quarter-final against the Crusaders is as follows - the Rebels need to lose to the Highlanders in their last game, and the Sharks need to beat the Jaguares in Durban.
A Highlanders win is likely, so the Sharks can prepare for the Jaguares game as if it is yet another final for them, but there are some potential spokes in the wheel. For a start, the injury that kept Jean-Luc du Preez from travelling to Newlands this past weekend is likely to keep him out of the Jaguares match.
And the chances of his twin brother Dan playing are also virtually nil. No 8 Dan was in hospital having a neck injury scanned after the Stormers match, which was why it was Dick Muir, the Sharks assistant coach, and not head coach Robert du Preez, Dan’s father, who fronted the media after the 27-16 defeat to the Stormers.
“We no longer have it in our hands and we have made it hard for ourselves,” said Muir after a match which was in many ways a microcosm of the Sharks’ season, with the team starting poorly, playing well in the middle but then just eventually succumbing because of too many mistakes.
Muir admits that the inconsistency that has blighted their season, with the tendency to be patchy over 80 minutes being matched on the macro level by an alarming trend of being good one week and bad the next, is something that needs to be addressed.
“We have grown this year but maybe not fast enough. It all comes down to this week and whether or not we make the playoffs. If we fail to make the play-offs it will be very disappointing,” said the former Springbok centre.
Muir though is convinced that while the squad has much to work on, and he agrees history will be firmly against the Sharks, the players will not be daunted about the prospect of travelling to Christchurch for a quarter-final should they get there.
“We have been good against New Zealand sides this year, so it won’t be too daunting for us although the history of the competition does suggest it is a massive undertaking,” said Muir.
“I firmly believe we have a team that on a given day can beat any other team in the competition.”
Muir reckons the key to the Sharks’ chances of winning in New Zealand is that they handle the Kiwi rush defence system better than the other South African sides.
“I do think we have handled the rush defence the best of all the sides, and we have also got a great off-load game. We are really good at that. It negates their line-speed, and we have been really direct against them.”
Another potential injury concern for the Sharks ahead of their final league game is Springbok wing S'bu Nkosi. The Sharks confirmed after the Stormers game that Nkosi was also away having scans done to a sore ankle.
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