The Sharks head to Loftus this weekend with their semi-final dreams hanging by the narrowest of threads. Regardless of the permutations that will doubtless unfold over the last few weeks of the season, the Sharks have a far more important reason to give their all against the Bulls this weekend.
The fact is, over the lifespan of Super Rugby, the Sharks have actually done remarkably well against the Bulls, particularly at Loftus. Apart from a somewhat embarrassing 8-30 defeat back in the first year of the Super 12 (1996), the Sharks have never lost to the Bulls by more than 8 points and have only once failed to score any log points against the Bulls, losing 16-24 in Durban in 2000 (the year the Sharks finished last).
While the statistics are incredibly even, with the Bulls ahead by 7 games to 6 with two draws over the course of 15 years, it’s surprising that the Sharks actually perform slightly better against the Bulls away from home , statistically speaking. Apart from that first result in 1996, the Sharks have only lost two other games at Loftus in Super rugby, while they have won three times and drawn once. Turning that into a percentage, we can say that the Sharks have either beaten, or drawn with, the Bulls, on 57% of the occasions that they’ve played in Pretoria, whereas back in Durban, that figure falls to 50%.
Points-wise, the Sharks can expect to leave Loftus with an average of 2.57 points when they play the Bulls there. That points to the fact that they really should be looking at a draw at the very least, lest they end up performing statistically below par against their blue rivals. Those looking for an upset, bonus-point victory for the Sharks are likely to be disappointed, though. While there have only been five try-bonus points scored between these times over 15 matches, the Sharks will take a lot of comfort from the fact that they have achieved the feat four times against the Bulls, with the Tshwane chaps only once managing to do it once. It’s a pretty sobering fact, though, that the Sharks have only once managed to achieve a four-try bonus point and a win at the same time! The Sharks are very good at scoring lots of tries in a losing effort against the Bulls, just like they did in 2009 and 2006. In 1997, they scored four but ended up drawing the game, whereas 2008 was the only time in history they’ve managed to leave Loftus with all five points in the bag.
The Sharks class of 2010, though, don’t really score lots of tries, so perhaps expecting the unthinkable is really a bridge too far. I’ll settle for a decent performance, just like we always deliver at Loftus – and if we happen to burgle a win along the way, so much the better.Tweet