Old Natalians, in other words those who watched that province play in their Currie Cup B Section years in the 1980s, might have been heartened this week by the massive obstacle that recent events have placed in front of the Sharks and a place in the Vodacom Super 14 semifinal.
It used to be said that Natal would only ever really cook when completely written off. That has happened this week, no-one really gives them a chance of beating the Crusaders. It used to be said that Natal would always conjure up something special when they were down and out. Again, they appear to have reached that point, and their performance last week against the Waratahs was abject.
Gavin Rich writes for Superrugby that the match against the Crusaders is time for the Sharks to remember the spirit of Craig Jamieson’s 1990 team, and for that matter Taffy Townsend’s men against the British Lions in 1924, when they drew three-all, and prevail against the odds.
You wouldn’t have said this a few weeks ago, because the Sharks appeared to be cruising, but two defeats have created a different perspective, and suddenly those narrow wins are no longer being seen as a sign of a good team that is capable of great things, but instead of a team that managed to ride it’s luck.
Yet, if any remnant of that old Natal spirit remains, those who write off the Sharks do so at their peril, because the Crusaders without Dan Carter, as has been shown on a few occasions in recent weeks, are not really that great. The Sharks can win if they play to their full potential. The problem of course is that they have hitherto seemed incapable of realising anything like their potential.
Maybe the backs to the wall situation they find themselves in will see them through, but it is going to take a miraculous turnaround, for at the moment the Vodacom Stormers, and not the Sharks, are looking the best South African bet for semifinal qualification.
But even they are not guaranteed an easy passage, and the Brumbies are equipped to end their winning run if a Stormers bad day coincides with a good day for the Australian outfit. It all makes for an absorbing, tense weekend, with the Vodacom Bulls entering the drama as the team SA will be banking on to halt the march of the Waratahs.Tweet