Onwards to the Playoffs – Featured Durban Blog

Onwards to the Playoffs:

It was the perfect storm as the Cell C Sharks scored a well-deserved 20-10 Vodacom Super Rugby victory over the Jaguares at a wet JONSSON KINGS PARK on Saturday evening to advance to the knock-out rounds.

The permutations were almost endless. Had the Highlanders lost to the Rebels earlier in the day, then all would be lost as far as our advancement went. Then, if the Bulls had beaten the Lions, it would have opened the door for the Jaguares to top the South African Conference and in doing so, hand them a home quarter-final.

But the Lions prevailed to take top of the log status and instead, the Jaguares remain in South Africa to take on last year’s losing finalists. As it was, the Argentineans had nothing to play for. Neither a win nor a loss would advance their cause any further, and regardless of how many points they would take out of their game, they could not rise above seventh on the log. Nor drop any lower.

But for the Cell C Sharks, a win was paramount. The players achieved it through sheer hard work and a defensive effort that had heroism written all over it.

“It was a big day, quite stressful actually, but we’re just happy to have won the game and gone through to the quarter-finals,” said a relieved Head coach Robert du Preez after the match.

“Today was all about getting the job done rather than how we did it. Winning was all that mattered, I don’t care how we win. We did what we had to do, I thought we were accurate on defence and in games like this, if there is one opportunity, you have to take it. I think we did, although we really needed one more try to break them.”

The Cell C Sharks now travel to Christchurch, home of the Crusaders who delivered a masterclass overall performance over the course of the pool stages, for this weekend’s quarter-final round.

The Cell C Sharks have a great record against New Zealand sides this year, although they didn’t get to play the Crusaders. With wins over the Highlanders, Chiefs and Blues, and a one point defeat to the Hurricanes, they won’t be overawed by their New Zealand opposition.

Looking back over the course of the season, there was one game that really stood out for du Preez and that was against New Zealand opposition.

“That was a game in which we came closest to our potential, although we didn’t win the match.”

“The Crusaders are top of the log, a great side, but this is a massive opportunity, a huge challenge and we’re going there to beat them; otherwise we might as well stay at home,” said the coach.

Saturday’s defensive effort may well be required again this weekend against a Crusaders’ side that has proven to be masters at ball retention and phase play.

“They keep the ball through multiple phases and have some very good individual players, that’s their biggest threat: they keep the ball when they have it.”

Captain Ruan Botha added his voice to the discussion, explaining that their match against the Crusaders wouldn’t require much different to what went into the Jaguares win.

“We won’t be changing much at all,” he explained. “Ultimately, it’s about taking your opportunities and against the Crusaders, you have to do your basics very well and hold on to the ball. If they get their hands on the ball, they retain possession through multiple phases and we need to prevent that.”

Also taking a look back over the season, he admitted that it hadn’t all gone to plan.

“This wasn’t the route we wanted to take, if we could turn back time, there were a lot of games we could have won and that would have made it an easier path. But whatever comes our way now, we’re prepared for it, we just need to stick to our guns and do the job.

“It’s going to be tough against the Crusaders but we back our defence against a team that hangs on to the ball. And when the opportunities arise on attack, we need to finish off.

“And we’re in it to win it. We want to finish off our campaign on a high.”

The post Onwards to the Playoffs appeared first on Sharks Rugby.

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