Final nail in Sharks’ coffin

Sun, 05 May 2013 16:44
Large highlanders v sharks2 Large maybru logo630 Large highlanders v sharks Large highlanders v sharks3 Large lubabalomtembuhighlanders Large john plumtree sharks looks Large frans steyn training630 Large bismarck du plessis and but Large willemalbertssharkstraining Large tendai mtawarira injured Large tim whithead   louis ludik Large cobusreinachsharkstraining

The loss to the Highlanders in Dunedin at the weekend effectively put paid to the Sharks’ Super Rugby title hopes.

The loss to the Highlanders in Dunedin at the weekend effectively put paid to the Sharks’ Super Rugby title hopes.

The match at Forsyth Barr Stadium in many ways characterised the Sharks’ 2013 campaign as a whole.

There were glimpses of the team’s great potential on attack, dogged defence that epitomised the heart and passion of the side, ill-fated injuries and inauspicious calls. The end result? Coming agonisingly short.

It’s hard not to feel for the Sharks. The 2013 season had looked so promising. After falling at the final hurdle last year, the Durban side were earmarked for a watershed 2013.

The three-time Super Rugby bridesmaids had looked destined to finally break their duck, but the perennial underachievers once again find themselves in a precarious position in ninth place on the log, six points adrift the sixth-placed Cheetahs.

However, this time round one cannot ignore the crippling injury plague that has swept through the Sharks camp and robbed them of their top talent.

In excess of 15 players - roughly half of the squad - have fallen victim to the injury curse, which in and of itself, is enough to stifle any franchise’s play-off aspirations.

As a result, the Sharks have roped in Lions players Derick Minnie, JC Janse van Rensburg and Andries Coetzee on loan and blooded the likes of Piet Lindeque, Sean Robinson and Danie Mienie, who while being possible stars of the future, have been fast-tracked prematurely.   

No team, irrespective of their depth, can sustain a serious play-off challenge in a marathon tournament such as Super Rugby amidst such an injury-ravaged season.

Is this an excuse? Far from it - it’s a fact, but to the Sharks’ credit, they have refused to blame their injury situation for their implosion.

For frankly, that’s what it has been - an implosion. A near full strength Sharks side won five of their first six matches, with their solitary defeat coming against the pace-setting Brumbies, to top the South African Conference.

A downward spiral ensued as the casualty list grew and the Sharks slumped to four successive losses, the weekend’s heartbreaking defeat against a previously winless Highlanders outfit the most demoralising of the lot.

They are not out of the play-off picture perse, but it’s difficult to see them bouncing back and going on a similar late surge as that of last year.

Even should they manage to snatch a wildcard spot, it would come as little consolation given the demanding travelling and marginal odds for success that accompany such a placing.      

The Sharks, though, are not complete victims of circumstance. As they have had throughout the season, they had a number of opportunities against the Highlanders that they didn’t take.

It’s a lack of finishing that has become somewhat of a recurring theme and has contributed to a bizarre change of fortunes between the Sharks and the Cheetahs, with the former this season coming up short in close games and the latter being one of the top two South African teams.

With matches against the Western Force next weekend and the Southern Kings in the final round of the regular season to come, it’s not all doom and gloom for the Sharks.

However, in terms of making a run at the title, last Saturday’s loss to the wooden spoonists was the final nail in the coffin.

By Quintin van Jaarsveld

MailBru: Drop us an email to rugby@sportsmedia365.com with your comment and your reply could get published on rugby365 and win you a MayBru hamper in the process!

MayBru - Seriously South African  

There are currently no matches being played
FIXTURE GMT VENUE
Sun, 01 May 2016
Exeter Chiefs v Wasps 12h00 Sandy Park
London Irish v Harlequins 14h00 Madejski Stadium
Saracens v Newcastle Falcons 14h15 Allianz Park
Fri, 06 May 2016
Crusaders v Reds 07h35 Christchurch
Brumbies v Bulls 09h40 Canberra
Griffons v Eagles 15h00 Welkom
EP Kings v Blue Bulls 16h00 Port Elizabeth
Sat, 07 May 2016
Sunwolves v Force 05h15 Tokyo
Chiefs v Highlanders 07h35 Hamilton
Waratahs v Cheetahs 09h40 Sydney
Leopards v Boland 12h30 Potchefstroom
Sharks v Hurricanes 13h00 Durban
Golden Lions v Free State Cheetahs 13h00 Randburg
Griquas v Border 13h00 Kimberley
Pumas v Namibia 13h00 Mpumalanga
Wasps v London Irish 14h30 Ricoh Arena
Newcastle Falcons v Sale Sharks 14h30 Kingston Park
Worcester Warriors v Saracens 14h30 Sixways
Bath v Leicester Tigers 14h30 Recreation Ground
Gloucester v Northampton Saints 14h30 Kingsholm
Harlequins v Exeter Chiefs 14h30 Twickenham
Zebre v Dragons 15h00 Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi
Munster v Scarlets 15h00 Thomond Park
Ospreys v Ulster 15h00 Liberty Stadium
Connacht v Glasgow Warriors 15h00 Sportsground
Edinburgh v Cardiff Blues 15h00 BT Murrayfield
Leinster v Treviso 15h00 RDS
Kings v Blues 15h05 Port Elizabeth
Sharks v Western Province 15h30 Durban
SUPER RUGBY
MORE LOGS
Pool AU
Team P W D L Pts
Rebels 9 5 0 4 23
Brumbies 9 5 0 4 21
Waratahs 8 4 0 4 21
Reds 9 2 1 6 12
Force 9 1 0 8 6
Pool NZ
Team P W D L Pts
Chiefs 9 8 0 1 37
Crusaders 8 7 0 1 32
Hurricanes 9 6 0 3 31
Highlanders 9 6 0 3 28
Blues 8 4 1 3 20
Pool SA1
Team P W D L Pts
Stormers 9 6 0 3 29
Bulls 8 6 1 1 28
Cheetahs 9 2 0 7 12
Sunwolves 8 1 0 7 7
Pool SA2
Team P W D L Pts
Lions 9 6 0 3 27
Sharks 9 4 1 4 23
Jaguares 8 1 0 7 7
Kings 7 1 0 6 4