We have all learnt, and specifically Sharks fans, that there is no easy match in a Super Rugby season, but there sure are important matches, key to the bigger scheme of things, which is to finally lift a Super Rugby trophy.
The Sharks tried, and to a point failed but yet made the final anyway, to select certain matches that were crucial, and target them for victory, yet messed up against teams that we really should have beaten. This strategy was binned through the season when the Sharks had to win every single match to stay in contention, and we all know where that got us.
The failed strategy has some validity though.
I am not saying the Sharks should send out second string teams against so called weaker teams, but there are certain matches during the season which one could refer to as critical. In my opinion, the following matches are key to the Sharks having a successful Super Rugby season:
23/02/2013 – Cheetahs vs Sharks
It starts. The first match for the Sharks and we face the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein. Nothing will do the team any better than to win the first match of the campaign, and this away from home. A good win will give the team confidence heading into a tough second week encounter against the toughest South African opposition (see below) with the feeling that the work put in on the training fields paid off.
02/03/2013 – Sharks vs Stormers
The first home game of the season and the first, and maybe final, opportunity to gain ascendency in the South African conference against the top South African team. Hopefully coming off an opening week victory over the Cheetahs, a confident Sharks team HAS to down the Stormers early in the competition, preventing the Stormers from getting on another unbeaten run.
05/04/2013 – Sharks vs Crusaders
The first real tough overseas opponents on home soil, and this after the Sharks have had a bye weekend, will prove quite a difficult match. If the Sharks can get off to a good start, the odds will be in their favour to overcome a Crusaders outfit that had to play the Stormers in Cape Town the previous weekend. A win over the Crusaders will also do the Sharks a world of good before they head down to Cape Town to face the Stormers.
13/04/2013 – Stormers vs Sharks
As mentioned above, the Sharks come off a bruising encounter against the Crusaders, and even though they have an eight day turnaround (playing the Crusaders on a Friday night), these two matches could mean the difference between the Sharks heading into a four week tour on a high or an extreme low.
27/04/2013 – Chiefs vs Sharks
A replay of the 2012 Super Rugby Final, with the exception of the Sharks having travelled twice around the world before taking on the New Zealanders. The first match on a tour is all important, and could determine the outcome of the rest of the tour. It is a tough start, but the Sharks have to target this match with everything they have, as the tour doesn’t get any easier with matches against the Highlanders and the Reds, two top teams, before a potential stumbling block against the Force on the last tour match, could derail all good work achieved on this tour.
17/05/2013 – Sharks vs Bulls
As if a four week tour is not enough, the Sharks come home to face the Bulls, the most successful South African Super Rugby team. Whether they will be competitive this year remains to be seen, but any Sharks/Bulls encounter is always a tough bruising match, and the Sharks will do well to win this match before the International break in Super Rugby.
Following the break, the Sharks enjoy two home matches and a trip to Loftus, a three week stretch that will need the Sharks to hit the ground running after a lengthy few weeks off.
I will repeat my earlier statement, there is no easy match during a Super Rugby season, any half decent coach will hammer this into his players, but the above matches in my opinion, are must wins and will be key once we look back over a season, a season that could be the Sharks’ first Super Rugby triumph, or just another play-off year.Tweet