The Cell C Sharks qualified for the semi-finals of this years Super Rugby competition after beating the Highlanders 31 – 27 at Kings Park on Saturday.
The team from Durban could not have asked for a better start to their 2014 campaign as they topped the log from round 1, having only dropped to second place in Round 3 due to having a bye, but then moving back to no 1 after beating the Lions in Round 4.
The Sharks’ campaign took a slight knock when they lost to the Stormers on returning from their Australasian tour in Round 15, having beaten the Rebels, Crusaders and Blues, they lost to an out of form Stormers side in Durban.
As their New Zealand and Australian counterparts returned to Super Rugby action after the June Incoming Tests Series, the Sharks slipped to second on the log, and even further (3rd) when they lost to the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein when the South African teams returned in Round 18.
The Sharks showed some good character and gave themselves some much needed momentum when they beat the Stormers, and many could say against the odds, at Newlands a fortnight ago, which set them up for a quarter final against the Highlanders in Durban.
The Sharks might not have played the most exciting rugby to date and in some instances scrapped through by “the skin of their fins”, but they have made it this far. Not many gave them a chance against the Stormers, or against the Highlanders, and as in 2012 and against all odds they have made it through to the semi-finals.
One positive the Sharks have done is to go back to the basics and playing to their strengths. All the kicking does not add up to just aimless kicking down field even if it seems that way. The Sharks are big into their positional play, getting into their opponents 22 before breaking them down with their big strong forwards.
We have seem it against the Stormers and more recently on Saturday when they took the Highlanders apart with their forwards. We have always pointed fingers at the senior players and accusing them of not putting their hands up when it counted, but that surely has changed in the last two games.
Jake White can feel confident in his pack of forwards and even his replacements that came on the field on Saturday gave a mammoth effort. Looking at the last two games it seems like they playing with a more direct plan, their execution on the field might not always go according to plan, but they’ve been on the money these last two weeks.
The Sharks always look their best when they dominate all areas of the game, and at their most dangerous when they get quick ball to their backs from the breakdown.
The semi-final against the Crusaders on Saturday will be like a final in itself.
The question still begs, can the Sharks beat the Crusaders twice in a season at Christchurch? Can the Sharks do the nearly impossible? We will have to wait un till 9:35am (SA time) on Saturday for the answer to so many questions.Tweet