DURBAN – When the dust had settled on round two of Super Rugby, the Sharks found themselves at the top of the South African Conference standings with a full house of 10 points.
It is still early days in the competition, of course, but the Sharks will be taking confidence from the fact that they played exceedingly well against the Sunwolves and then at the weekend eventually had enough in the tank to see off a very good Blues team.
The Sharks thus have momentum and self-belief going into Saturday’s match against the Stormers at Kings Park (5.15pm kickoff), but they will also know that they have to be far more clinical in their play if they are to be serious contenders for the title.
To be frank, the Sharks were in equal measure poor and excellent across the two halves, the Blues’ courageous fightback from a 19-0 halftime deficit notwithstanding.
For coach Robert du Preez, it was all smiles after the game, and he further warned that his team have more in the tank going forward.
“You have not seen the best of this team there is still a lot to come,” Du Preez said. “I am very pleased with the five points. I thought the boys showed great courage out there. They really played for each other against a very good team, a team that ran the Crusaders close in round one. It was really tough out there, uncompromising, and the maximum points we take out of the game are invaluable.”
It is true that the Sharks were superb in the first half, but equally valid is the fact that they fell away in the second half.
“There are ebbs and flows in every game,” Du Preez said. “We had a lot of opportunities to score that we should have converted, but then we were playing against a really good team that put us under pressure in the second half. You have to give credit to the Blues for the way they fought back.”
The Sharks’ back three had a superb game, both individually and as a unit.
Left wing Makazole Mapimpi was the man of the match, and rightly so given that each time he received the ball he looked dangerous, while right wing Sbu Nkosi scored a try and looked dangerous every time he got hold of the ball. And fullback Aphelele Fassi looked at ease once more.
“I thought Fassi was really brave and outstanding And Mapimpi was fantastic and fully deserving of the accolades that came his way. He is very good at communicating with his support runners,” Du Preez said.
“Our back three are very dangerous, but we mustn’t forget that they could only play so well because of the effort from our forwards.”