Sharks in a tight position after loss

2014-06-03 00:00

THE Sharks will definitely play a Super Rugby play-off match at home this season, but thanks to Jaco Taute’s last-gasp drop-goal at King’s Park on Saturday, there is now a chance they will be playing that knock-out game a week before they would have wanted to.

The Stormers’ win has taken away the Sharks’ position of having destiny in their own hands. The Waratahs are two points adrift of them in the top bracket on the overall log, but they have a game in hand.

What that effectively means is that if the Waratahs win their home game against the Brumbies on the day the Springboks play Scotland in Port Elizabeth, they will be on top of the log when the teams return for the last two full rounds of the competition.

And the Crusaders can knock the Sharks back to third place if they beat the Hurricanes and score four tries while doing it that same weekend. Sound like an unlikely scenario?

It is not unlikely enough for the Sharks’ comfort, for they face a tough finish to the competition themselves, with an away match to the Cheetahs being followed by the league finale against the Stormers in Cape Town.

The Stormers have been good at home recently and should have Eben Etzebeth and a few other first-choice players back from injury by then.

So the Sharks would have been hoping to have clinched the deal, in other words have made sure of top spot, before going to Newlands.

Whatever happens in the weeks before then, that looks unlikely following their defeat to the same Stormers team in Durban.

They could well be going to Cape Town playing to avoid a drop to third, which would mean they don’t advance straight to the semi-final, but play what would effectively be a quarter- final round against the team who finish sixth.

Theoretically, that could still be the Bulls, but that looks unlikely after the Pretoria team were upset by the Lions in Johannesburg in a game that was of far superior quality to the one played at King’s Park later in the evening.

The result at Ellis Park meant the Sharks started the Stormers game assured of winning the South African conference for the first time, and when they do play their play-off game, be it in the quarter-final round or semi- final round, it will be their first appearance in a home play-off since they hosted the 2007 final.

But Sharks coach Jake White won’t see that as an achievement as he set his sights on winning the competition when it started, and he will have to concede now that the Waratahs, after their unexpectedly one-sided away win over the Chiefs this past weekend, are now the strong tournament favourites.

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