Final nail in Sharks’ coffin

Sun, 05 May 2013 16:44
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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

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FIXTURE GMT VENUE
Wed, 31 May 2017
New Zealand U20 v Scotland U20 09h00 AIA Arena
England U20 v Samoa U20 09h00 Tbilisi
South Africa U20 v France U20 11h30 Tbilisi
Ireland U20 v Italy U20 11h30 AIA Arena
Argentina U20 v Georgia U20 14h00 Tbilisi
Australia U20 v Wales U20 14h30 Tbilisi
Fri, 02 June 2017
Blues v Reds 07h35 Auckland
Sat, 03 June 2017
Crusaders v Highlanders 02h35 Christchurch
Chiefs v Waratahs 05h05 Hamilton
NZ Barbarians v B&I Lions 07h35 Toll Stadium
Brumbies v Rebels 09h45 Canberra
Force v Hurricanes 11h35 Perth
Sun, 04 June 2017
Ireland U20 v Scotland U20 09h00 AIA Arena
Argentina U20 v France U20 09h00 Tbilisi
New Zealand U20 v Italy U20 11h30 AIA Arena
Australia U20 v Samoa U20 11h30 Tbilisi
South Africa U20 v Georgia U20 14h00 Tbilisi
England U20 v Wales U20 14h30 Tbilisi
RESULT SCORE
Sun, 28 May 2017
Lions v Kings 54 | 10
Sat, 27 May 2017
Jaguares v Brumbies 15 | 39
Munster v Scarlets 22 | 46
Sharks v Stormers 22 | 10
Wasps v Exeter Chiefs 20 | 23
Bulls v Hurricanes 20 | 34
Rebels v Crusaders 19 | 41
Highlanders v Waratahs 44 | 28
Sunwolves v Cheetahs 7 | 47
Fri, 26 May 2017
Reds v Force 26 | 40
Blues v Chiefs 16 | 16
Sun, 21 May 2017
Waratahs v Rebels 50 | 23
Sat, 20 May 2017
Kings v Brumbies 10 | 19
Munster v Ospreys 23 | 3
Wasps v Leicester Tigers 21 | 20
SUPER RUGBY
MORE LOGS
Pool AU
Team P W D L Pts
Brumbies 12 5 0 7 28
Waratahs 12 4 0 8 19
Force 12 4 0 8 17
Reds 12 3 0 9 16
Rebels 12 1 1 10 8
Pool NZ
Team P W D L Pts
Crusaders 13 13 0 0 59
Hurricanes 12 10 0 2 48
Highlanders 13 10 0 3 45
Chiefs 12 9 1 2 45
Blues 13 6 1 6 33
Pool SA1
Team P W D L Pts
Stormers 12 7 0 5 34
Cheetahs 13 3 0 10 16
Bulls 12 3 0 9 15
Sunwolves 12 1 0 11 7
Pool SA2
Team P W D L Pts
Lions 13 12 0 1 56
Sharks 13 9 1 3 42
Jaguares 12 5 0 7 24
Kings 12 4 0 8 19