John Plumtree’s Sharks were forced to watch in horror as first the Hurricanes and then the Reds recorded victories this past weekend that further dented their already tenuous chances of Super Rugby knock-out qualification.
Starting the weekend in seventh position, the Sharks were hoping that a loss for the Hurricanes against a Crusaders side that really should have beaten them at home, might see them leapfrog Plumtree’s former team from Wellington, however given the unexpected result there, the Canes are still level with the Sharks on log points, yet ahead on the table by virtue of having won more games.
Adding insult to injury, though, the Reds picked up a bonus point win over the hapless Rebels, moving them up to 49 points as well, also with one win more than the Sharks and thus ahead of them in the standings. With the Canes ahead of the Reds on points difference, they are currently clinging to the final qualification spot, with the Sharks now back in eighth.
That’s a far cry from the home semi-final that was meant to be the Sharks’ aim this season and, if anything, sees the team faring slightly worse than they managed in last year’s disappointing season.
Whilst permutations abound, there is still a faint hope for the Sharks in that both the Hurricanes and, strangely enough, the Crusaders are vulnerable should either (or preferably both), lose to the Chiefs. The Canes have a bye week coming up too, meaning they can achieve a maximum of 9 points over the last two rounds, so even without a loss to the Chiefs, the Sharks can still overtake them. In order to be sure of a knock-out place, though, the Sharks need 10 points from the next two games and will need either the Reds to drop a point, or the Crusaders to drop a game, in the next two weeks.
Those of us who’ve endured the roller-coaster that Sharks rugby has been over the last few years, though, will know not to get too far ahead of ourselves. With the inconsistent rugby that this team likes to dish up, the chances of two successive bonus-point victories at home against South African opposition is going to be enough of a long shot, regardless of what any other teams may or may not do.Tweet