Sure they could have lost the game, but with young Thomas du Toit leading the charge, the Sharks scrum was a thing of pure beauty, and just for that, they deserve a semi-final!
There was no going into their shells for this year’s quarter finalists! Instead, we saw some of the best rugby of the entire tournament as the Sharks pipped the Highlanders 31-27, and the Brumbies edged the Chiefs 32-30.
With only 5% picking a Landers win, and 26% picking a Chiefs win, it was not nearly as convincing as the SuperBru’s predicted! In fact, both games could have gone the other way, producing very different semi-finals, and SuperBru leaderboards, but instead we have the following, slightly more predictable, semis to look forward to on Saturday morning:
09:35 – Crusaders vs Sharks, AMI Stadium, Christchurch
11:40 – Waratahs vs Brumbies, ANZ Stadium, Sydney
A brutal 2 weeks lies in wait for the Sharks, who will face their second opponent from New Zealand’s South Island in as many weeks when they travel to Christchurch on Saturday. And if they by some miracle do the double in Christchurch, they then need to cross the pond to do it again in Australia!
Earning the right to such a tough adventure came via a hard-fought victory in Durban, where two late Frans Steyn penalty goals paved the way to their 8th Super Rugby semi-final. Both teams scored three tries each during a thoroughly entertaining 80 minutes of rugby.
The Sharks’ pack, especially come scrum time where young Thomas du Toit has been a revelation in replacing the injured Beast Mtwarira, laid the foundation for victory in their 14th playoff match at this level. Du Toit, yet another product of Paarl Boys, played for the Baby Boks in New Zealand last month. He is a big unit, but uses his height and strength very cleverly, getting into a powerful scrumming position right from the set.
The Sharks were also impressive come lineout time where Ryan Kankowski more than made up for the late withdrawal of Stephan Lewies, taking his own ball with ease, but also making a nuisance of himself on opposition ball..
Now the most successful team in the history of the tournament await the Sharks. The Crusaders have won the title seven times, but the banana boys showed earlier this year that they can win in Christchurch by becoming the first South African team in 13 years to beat the Cantabrians at AMI Stadium.
The other semi-final, almost incredibly, will be an Aussie derby between the table-topping Waratahs and the Brumbies, who managed to reverse the result of last year’s final against the Chiefs. It is amazing to see how far the Aussies have come in one year. Sadly, though, at the expense of us South Africans, who seem to have gone backwards at the same rate! And as we leak players overseas, so we bring in a 6th Super Rugby franchise to further weaken the player resource base. It seems a risky strategy.