Was it just me, or did the Sharks look ever-so-slightly like they were holding back on Saturday? I mean, the guys played more than well enough to win and win comfortably, but I found myself wondering whether the thought of a pre-tour injury might not be towards the front of some players’ minds.
The Super 14 is a gruelling competition, of that their is no doubt. Expecting a team to play at their absolute peak in a virtual test-match environment for 15 weeks in a row is a pretty big ask. Add to that the absolutely suicidal conditions in Durban at this time of year and the fact that the Sharks have the sort of draw that makes going unbeaten through the season an outside possibility. I then ask myself – would their be any point in doing more than was absolutely necessary to secure four points against the Lions? I don’t think there really was.
Let’s face facts here – the New Zealand teams, collectively, look weak this year. The Crusaders have already dropped a bonus point at home and lost a game away. The Blues were thrashed by an average Bulls team, while the Chiefs, Highlanders and Hurricanes are all battling to out-mediocre one another. The Waratahs and Brumbies both remain unbeaten and will present a formidable challenge to the Sharks, although we at least face them in Durban. The promising Bulls will lose both of those games away, as well as getting hammered by the Crusaders, effectively taking them out of home semi-final contention.
Point is, despite how the prophets of doom are already circling, the Sharks are really unlikely to rue the lost bonus point against the Lions in the final reckoning. Not if they manage to stay fit, sharp and uninjured through their cakewalk of a tour and emerge unbeaten, with a string of games in Durban to follow. We’ll worry about the bonus points then, when the ball is drier and the tour hump is behind us.Tweet