Sharks’ historic upset

2014-05-19 00:00

WHAT the 14-man Sharks achieved in Super Rugby over the past weekend cannot be understated for their 30-25 victory over the mighty Crusaders in Christ­church will go down as one of the greatest triumphs in their history.

Winning for the first time at the home of the seven-time champions meant a lot to director of rugby Jake White’s charges and the sheer emotion from the players afterwards told its own story.

Springbok front-rower Tendai Mtawarira, playing in his 100th game along with Jannie du Plessis, described the result as the best in his Sharks career because of the magnitude of what had been achieved.

“It’s probably my best win for the Sharks,” Mtawarira, better known as Beast, said.

“No South African team had won here for such a long time and for us to do it, especially in my 100th game, is really special. I couldn’t have asked for anything better.”

The facts heading into the game: no franchise from South Africa had toppled the most successful Super Rugby outfit on their home patch for 13 years (since 2001), the Sharks had not done it in 10 previous visits and the New Zealanders were on a 50-game winning streak against sides from both Australia and South Africa in Christchurch.

That they did it with a man down after Jean Deysel’s red card only 16 minutes into the contest, and even 13 players for a period, made it all the more special and the match will go down as one of the greatest upsets in the history of the competition.

What it all means after the latest round of games, when there were plenty upsets, is the Durbanites have a five-point cushion at the summit after taking their total to 40 with only four regular season games remaining.

The Brumbies stayed second on the log with 35 points after going down to the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein, with the Chiefs, who have a game in hand, on the same total.

From not being accurate enough with their execution early on in the game to kicking away too much turnover ball rather than running it, it looked like the Sharks may again come unstuck on tour after losing to the Brumbies the week before.

They started out well thanks to S’bura Sithole’s first Super Rugby try, set up by Frans Steyn’s clever run and flick.

Colin Slade, who missed three kicks at goal on the night, responded for the Crusaders by scoring a try after a Cobus Reinach error.

Then came the ugly moment of the game as Deysel was handed his marching orders by referee Rohan Hoffmann for a stamp on the head of Jordan Taufua.

Slade missed another kick at goal before the break, but then exchanged penalties with Steyn, far better with his accuracy this week compared to seven days earlier, as the Sharks trailed only by three at the changeover.

And they got their second try when Reinach intercepted a pass with his knee and outsprinted the cover defence to score on the left.

Slade and Steyn again exchanged penalties, before a rare miss from the Springbok back.

Two more penalties from Slade, the second leading to the sin-binning of Willem Alberts for tackling a man without the ball, gave the hosts a 22-20 lead, which they looked like finally holding on to.

It became a one-point game when the Sharks conceded a scrum penalty, one of several.

Replacement Tim Swiel then landed a penalty under pressure, while Slade then missed and scored another of his own as another twist threatened.

However, the result was sealed when Kyle Cooper burst through a gap as the front row shoved forward to rewrite history.

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