You would have to say that the Sharks were a successful team overall during the 2017 Super Rugby season. Sure, they were wildly inconsistent, but they finished with a very respectable 9 wins from 15 games. They also were a missed Lions penalty away from making it to the semifinals of the competition and – framed in those terms – this was certainly a better year for the Sharks than it was for some of the other teams out there.
Here is a look back at 2017 for the Sharks;
There is a couple of players in the frame for this one, but the Sharks best player over the whole season was back rower Jean-Luc Du Preez.
Du Preez is everything you would expect from a Springbok flanker in the loose as he is a punishing runner in attack and a body on the line defender when the other team is in possession. The 22-year-old is still getting better as a player and when he rounds out his mental game to go with his imposing physicality he is going to be among the best back row forwards in the game.
The biggest disappointment for the Sharks came in that quarterfinal against the Lions.
Having been beaten by their hosts twice already in the campaign, there were very few giving the Durban side any hope in Johannesburg. The Lions though were far from their best – in many ways because of the pressure the Sharks put on them – and this one was there for the taking until that giant late penalty kicked by Ruan Combrinck.
Maybe the Lions deserved the win on the balance of play in the second half, but the Sharks will really think they let this one slip away because of some indiscipline late in the contest.
The Sharks handed the Jaguares their first home defeat of the season in late April as they travelled to Buenos Aires to tame the Argentinian side 33-25.
It was a day that showed the value of great kicking as fly-half Curwin Bosch kicked 18 points to deny the Jaguares a bonus point despite each team registering three tries. The Sharks were excellent in this encounter. They capitalised on every mistake and defended everything thrown at them. If the South African outfit performed like this more frequently throughout the year, then they would have picked up an extra win or two as the season rolled on.
With such an up and down team there are options here too (hello defeat by the Southern Kings) but it has to be the Sharks’ draw in April with the dreadful Melbourne Rebels.
It wasn’t just that this was one of the Rebels’ only two positive results of the season, with the Australians losing 13 of 15 in 2017. It was also that the performance of the Sharks on the day was nothing short of abject. It was a game that has been described in some quarters as the worst Super Rugby game of all time and that is pretty much all you need to know about a contest that featured more red cards (2) than tries (0).
Reason For Hope
The Sharks had a successful season while still bringing through a core of talented young players that will hit the ground running in 2018, having been given a taste of the first grade this year.
Bosch is a great example of this youth movement, with instinctive and dangerous winger S’busiso Nkosi being another who big things will be expected of when the competition begins again. Keeping the core might not be the easiest task in the world, but if the Sharks can strengthen around their youth, then this will be a dangerous team for the next couple of years.
Overall Grade – B
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