I’m really in two minds about Saturday’s Sharks game, having had the benefit of two days to think about it. After the match, we were all caught up in a very emotional sort of euphoria – bitterly disappointed to have lost in such a controversial manner, yet still so, so pleased to have seen a better showing from the team. Was this really the start of the revival, though? Or perhaps just the dreaded “dead cat bounce”?
Now that last half an hour really was pretty good – the Sharks played with real fire in the belly and finally started to keep the ball in hand and string a few phases together. The passage of play that culminated in Adi Jacobs’ try was simply breathtaking and reminiscent of Sharks rugby at its best; forwards and backs working together in unison to retain the ball through umpteen phases of play, before finally exploiting the gap that inevitably must open up. The performance of the pack as a whole really picked up in the second half too and the rolling maul, as well as pick and drive finally started to bear fruit. Willem Alberts, Jean Deysel and Bismarck du Plessis – hell, Beast too – all started to really look the part again as they repeatedly drove the Tahs defenders back.
None of this takes away from the fact that the Sharks, yet again, were a disorganised, ill-disciplined mob in the first half and seemed completely bereft of any ideas or motivation. The period in which first Jannie du Plessis and then Andy Goode were yellow carded for cynical foul play might well go down in the annals of Sharks infamy – about as poor as the infamous Taione head-butt or the Kockott face-slap in terms of good sportsmanship. Were it not for a piece of typical Kankowski individual brilliance the Sharks would have been dead and buried by half-time and one has to concede that in this period, the Tahs did a fair amount to lose the match.
Whatever happened within the team to spark the late turnaround, we’ll never know – although we can at least be sure that it wasn’t a fiery John Smit team talk, since he wasn’t on the field at the time. All of a sudden, as a result of one of those strange things that can happen on a rugby field, the Sharks turned from a bunch of battling no-hopers into the team we all know they can be – and have been in the past. The saddest part of all is that they could have – nay, should have – won the match, had it not been for some inept officiating from home-town ref Paul Marks. I guess, based on what we’ve come to expect from the team this season, even that doesn’t matter too much. Just seeing the boys having fun, backing each other and playing good rugby felt almost as good as a win anyway.
The real test, though, will come against the Brumbies. We need the Sharks to stand up and show us that the last 30 against the Tahs wasn’t just a false dawn and that whatever has happened in the past, all 30-odd men on this tour are committed to making Sharks rugby great again. Come on, boys – we’re counting on you to go one better this weekend!Tweet