Much of the focus ahead of this weekend’s match between the Waratahs and the Sharks in Sydney has been placed on the away team’s frankly shocking track record at that venue in Super Rugby. While the teams have typically been fairly evenly-matched on paper over the period, the modern-era Sharks have only won once in Sydney – back in 2000 – and have seen a number of promising campaigns fall on hard times in Australia’s largest city.
Playing as Natal, the superstar-laden team of 1996 also managed to pull off a win in Sydney, but other than that, the men in black and white have lost 7 games there. The margins of victory seem to be getting smaller, though, with 2010′s 25-21 loss (in which the Sharks were frankly cheated out of a win) the most recent result. Whatever the case, it does appear as though something other than relative form tends to play into the Waratahs hands during these encounters and for the Sharks to kick on after a good win against the Reds last week, the team simply has to overcome their “Sydney slump”.
Speaking to Gavin Rich of Supersport, coach John Plumtree confirmed that the team have had a lengthy discussion about the issue. “We have managed to beat both the Waratahs and the Brumbies at home, but we don’t boast much success over here,” he told Rich. “We just need to put a big emphasis on making sure we don’t get distracted while we’re here, we need to remember that rugby is why we’re here and winning is why we’re here. We stressed the importance of having as good a build-up to Saturday as we possibly can.”
What the coach is hinting at, I suspect, is a tendency for the players to relax just a little bit too much in laid-back Sydney. There’s a fine line between enjoying the tour and enjoying the tour too much, if you get what I’m saying; while the former is crucial in terms of building team spirit and allowing the boys to perform at their peak, if the balance shift too far toward the latter, the rugby is always going to come off second best.
Let’s hope the Sharks can surprise us and put in another good performance to topple a Waratahs side that are looking more vulnerable than they have been at any stage since the late 90s. All we can ask for is that the injury gods smile on us this weekend – and that the bright lights of the Sydney Football Stadium (and ref Chris Pollock) do nothing to get in the way of a good performance.Tweet