Sharks sent packing

2014-07-27 15:00

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South Africa’s challenge in the 2014 Super Rugby competition came to an inauspicious end in Christchurch yesterday when the Sharks were sent packing by a rampant Crusaders side in the first semifinal of the day.

So dismal were the Sharks that they might have saved themselves the trouble of travelling halfway around the globe by simply handing the Crusaders a walkover.

Having scraped through in their play-off against the Highlanders a week earlier, coach Jake White surveyed the wreck of a season that had looked so promising as the tournament entered the home straight.

Defeats to the Stormers and the Cheetahs cost the Sharks the advantage of home play-off matches and although White did his best to talk up the chances of his team, the long intercontinental flight to New Zealand’s South Island proved a bridge too far.

However, what would have been most disappointing for the coach at the end of his first season in charge was that the Sharks were so poor at the things they are meant to be good at.

Their much-vaunted scrum made no impression on a Crusaders tight five determined to stand fast, and the kicking game designed to apply pressure and win territorial advantage went pear-shaped with the likes of Patrick Lambie and Francois Steyn and a few others making constant errors when putting the ball to boot.

In the end, former All Black scrum half Justin Marshall put it best: “That was very disappointing. The Sharks didn’t fire a shot.”

The Sharks were outscored by five tries to nil and if it wasn’t for an uncharacteristically off day with the boot by Dan Carter, the score line would have had an even more ­lopsided look.

The Sharks were sloppy when taking the ball into contact, they struggled to exit their own territory and did not mount a single definite try-scoring chance as the Crusaders showed the champion quality that has carried them to seven titles and 13 semifinal appearances in a row.

»In Sydney, the Waratahs confirmed their top-of-log status by securing a home final against the Crusaders at the Allianz Stadium yesterday by handing the Brumbies a 26-8 whipping.

With heavy rain making the field soggy and treacherous, conditions were not suited to the running game the Waratahs prefer, but they showed that if needs be, they are more than capable of grinding out a win by taking control of the ball and shutting down the opposition.

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