Three wins out of four mean they head home on a high to face the Jaguares
TWO years ago, the Sharks returned home from a successful tour of New Zealand only to cop 50 points from a Jaguares side that had just thumped the Bulls.
Will history strike again when the Argentineans visit Jonsson Kings Park on Saturday?
It possibly will be given that the Jaguares are the Pumas in disguise and the Sharks will be heavily fatigued after a month on the road.
But it is probable that the Sharks will be so much better than was the case for the 2018 vintage which suffered so much because coach Rob du Preez did not rest his front-line players, and because the players did not have the harmony they currently enjoy.
The Sharks return home today from four fruitful weeks on the road, and coach Sean Everitt is delighted that the trip took the turn it did when it could have gone the other way.
The Sharks are now well into their first Super Rugby season under Everitt after four years of Du Preez rule, and they have thrived with three wins from four on the road.
“For a new group, we (have) taken a lot of confidence out of this tour,” Everitt said.
“It was an opportunity for us to grow after a lot of changes from last year – the guys have become really tight with one another, and that showed in how we found a way to beat the Reds (in the tour finale).
“I know it wasn’t pretty but the guys worked hard for each other and that was pleasing to see,” the coach continued.
“Being away from home for four weeks is never easy, especially two weeks in New Zealand, then coming to Australia where we always struggle if the tour is split that way around.
“And the fourth week is always a challenge, no matter where you are because you wonder if the players have one foot on the plane home and the other on the rugby field – but tonight against the Reds, the fight the guys showed means they can be proud of themselves.”
The fourth week for South African teams on the road is notoriously difficult, and for the Sharks it was something of a saviour that they were located on Queensland’s Gold Coast as opposed to being in the Brisbane city centre.
The surf and sand of the Gold Coast is very much like the KZN coast.
“The last week on tour can become tedious, so being down on the Gold Coast was nice after having been in the cities of Auckland, Wellington and Melbourne – the conditions are close to home for us. In Durban we have the beach we wanted to be refreshed and it worked out really well for us.”
Everitt said he was proud of how his team fought back after being 11-8 down to the Reds following a first-half arm wrestle.
“We were quite fortunate to turn at 8-11, it could have been a lot worse.
“Our maul defence was very good it stopped them on a number of occasions and that required a lot of heart and won us the game at the end of the day.
“And credit must go to the bench – when they came on we started to get ascendancy in the set scrums and obviously in the mauls. Maybe we should have gone for more mauls rather than taking it off the top of the line-outs – and we learned from that.”
The game in Durban on Saturday starts at 3pm.