There was very nearly something to smile about in South Africa’s Super Rugby campaign.
The Sharks all but beat, albeit not the strongest, Crusaders team in Christchurch after Saders had clocked up 25 wins at home. The score was 21-all with Curwin Bosch, playing his second successive game as starting flyhalf, slotting seven penalties for the Sharks.
The Sharks were leading 21-14 when the full-time hooter sounded and the home side, following relentless pressure and six or seven penalty transgressions by the Sharks, scored the try that mattered when Mitch Hunt was put into the gap to score and kicked the equalizing conversion.
The near-win by the Sharks was set up by a never-say-die effort by forwards and backs alike, with the Du Preez loose forward twins Dan and Jean-Luc working hard in the battles around the breakdowns, as did lock Ruan Botha and Philip van der Walt, with the front row of the Sharks earning a number of penalties when the home side couldn’t take the strain.
Yes, there were a number of All Blacks absent from the playing field and some other regular Crusaders players were also given a rest. But the competition’s best team over the years and especially for the past nearly three years couldn’t cope with the Sharks rush defence and their overall defence.
They will no doubt be worried about the future with the excepted loss of top players after the World Cup.
In the end the Crusaders, outplayed before halftime, fought back as the third quarter neared its and breached the visitors defences for the second time after 56 minutes before the try that broke the KwaZulu-Natalians’ hearts.
There is also the reality that the Sharks never really looked like scoring a try of their own with long-range penalties by Bosch keeping them in the hunt.
The Sharks, after a win against the waratahs last weekend, play the Chiefs in their last tour match next weekend, while Crusaders will play the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld.
Crusaders (7) 21: Tries: Codie Taylor, Jack Goodhue, Mitchell Hunt. Conversions: Hunt (3).
Sharks (9) 21: Penalties: Curwin Bosch (7).