Loading...
Loading Live Scoring...
*All times CAT (GMT+2)

Rugby | Vodacom Super Rugby

Sharks are targeting four tries



The Sharks have been in what for this season has been a unique position for them, with all the players who took part in last week’s narrow 22-20 win over the Blues being available for Saturday’s big Vodacom Super Rugby derby against the Vodacom Bulls in Pretoria.

All the players reported to training at the start of a week which suddenly has added significance now that the Sharks co-coaches, Grant Bashford and Hugh Reece-Edwards, and the senior players have realised that they are in a position that they’ve been in before. They have light at the end of the tunnel and know what they have to aim for to get a place in the playoffs.

Playoffs? Yes, that is a Sharks focus again now that the penny has dropped that 10 log points from the remaining two fixtures will get them to 52, which may just be enough to get them a top six spot. And it’s a position the Sharks have relished and thrived on in the past, so who says they can’t do it again.

At the start of each season the Sharks, more than any other team, appear to know how long the Super Rugby campaign is and there are times they appear to save themselves.

Perhaps it comes down to having so many Springboks who won’t be taking a break during the June international window when some other franchises have a lot of down time and an opportunity to recuperate.

But as Bashford relates, put a gun to the players’ heads and tell them they are on a knockout footing, and suddenly they’re razor sharp and they cook.

In 2010 they won several matches on the trot in the second half of the season before eventually succumbing right at the end to the Bulls, and in 2011 they got it right, finishing with a flourish as they beat the Bulls at Loftus in the last league game to qualify for the playoffs.

And no-one should need reminding of what happened last season, when the Sharks surged through the last two months of the season and at one stage threatened to confound the theories of sports science by winning the competition while playing all of their knockout games away from home and against the backdrop of a flight schedule that would have worn out an airline pilot.

So Bashford hasn’t been shy to tell his charges what the mission at Loftus is this weekend – a haul of five log points by winning and scoring four tries.

“We have struggled to get four-try bonus points this season but the way our pack is playing at the moment we are dangerous when we are in the strike zone and are in a position to maul, so who knows,” said Bashford in looking ahead to this week’s penultimate game of the league phase.

“We’re certainly going to go out and try and get the four tries, and of course if we do that we still need to win too. The way we look at it we need 10 points from these remaining games (the Sharks host the Kings in their final league match), so anything less than that won’t be good enough. We thought we were out of it, but thanks to the results of last week, we feel we have a realistic chance.”

Those results were the defeat of the Cheetahs by the Stormers, and the Blues’ loss to his own team. If the Blues beat the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein this week and then return to New Zealand and lose to the Chiefs, the Sharks can leapfrog both teams into sixth place, remembering of course that the Waratahs, who are also marginally ahead of them at this stage, can do the same but only have one match remaining.

“For that matter, the Stormers, who are level with us on log points and are just behind by a couple of points on log difference, also have a chance. For both of us it’s a big challenge but not an impossible one,” said the Sharks co-coach.

“The good thing is that we also know that if we do make it beyond the league phase, we will likely have the strongest team we have fielded all season playing for us. JP Pietersen is due back next week, among others, and so is Meyer Bosman.”

With the Bulls suddenly picking up injuries too and having lost their two main ball carriers in Arno Botha and Pierre Spies, who are both also lineout forwards, plus Juandre Kruger heading overseas, the Sharks should certainly feel they are in with a chance at Loftus.

“Our backs have been decimated by injury and remain so but we have our top forwards back now and any coach will tell you that they would rather have a strong forward pack than good backs and a weak pack,” said Bashford.

That pack was of course assembled and moulded by previous coach John Plumtree, so if the Sharks go on to record a fairytale triumph in Super Rugby in 2013, the now ex-coach would have left a fitting legacy.

And as extensions of Plumtree, so would Bashford and Reece-Edwards, both of whom are heading into their last two weeks with the Sharks senior team.

The Sharks team will be finalised on Thursday but is unlikely to differ from the one that beat the Blues.



Comments

More expert analysis and opinion from Sport24
The opinions expressed by Sport24 experts and bloggers are theirs alone, and do not necessarily represent those of SuperSport

Event Streaming

Channel Streaming

Other Live Streaming

Event Streaming

Channel Streaming

Sports Talk



Tony Johnson
Losing not an option for some
Four matches this weekend have the potential to whittle the chase for the playoffs down.

Gavin Rich
A case for change to Bok front row
The final league fixture of the Vodacom Super Rugby season could disappoint.

Kyle Brown
Bloodied but unbowed
It will take a bit of time for the pain to settle and for us to realise that the sun will rise...

Brendan Venter
Success determined by injury list
As we approach the business end of the Super Rugby season, I believe that the team which has their...

Brenden Nel
Where is the Blitz in these Boks?
The spectacular implosion by the Blitzboks to hand their World Series lead – and then the title –...

Super Wrap
SuperWrap: Week 14, 2015
An optimist will look at a glass of water and call it half-full. A pessimist will look at that same...