The coaches of South Africa’s only two sides that still have a chance of making the Super 14 semifinals were upbeat for totally contrasting reasons after their teams’ wins over the weekend.
While Sharks coach Dick Muir thought his charges were at last starting to put things together at the back, Rassie Erasmus was impressed with his Stormers forwards.
Muir, in particular, must be chuffed. The Sharks, after all, have scored only 16 tries this season. Only the Lions have a worse record with 12 tries.
”I believe our backline has turned the corner,” Muir told the Natal Mercury after Friday’s 19-17 win over the Highlanders.
”We are now on the right track with our attack. It does not worry me that the backline was not the finished article against the Highlanders — the main thing is we have shifted towards a more positive mindset, and we can now grow.”
The Sharks will be wary of the Brumbies, whom they play on Saturday.
It was the Canberra side that derailed them in Durban last year. The Brumbies also accounted for the Blues on Saturday, and while their hopes of making the semifinals must be diminishing, the Australian side could set the Sharks back in a season where last year’s finalists have looked vulnerable virtually every time they’ve taken the field.
Erasmus, on the other hand, was happy with his forwards. This was especially pleasing as the Stormers have seldom stood up to the big guys.
This they did against a quality Cheetahs pack on Saturday, holding their own in the tight phases and cleaning out rucks aggressively to provide clean ball to their Springbok halfbacks, Ricky January and Peter Grant.
”I’m proud of the way our forwards played,” said Erasmus after Saturday’s match, conceding they did not win the forward battle but holding out hope for their remaining five matches.
”It’s nice to see our guys being competitive against those big forwards. We now know we can handle the tough packs to come.”
The Stormers, who stuttered along in their home matches and only really hit their straps overseas, where they won three of their four matches, have a long haul before them to make the semis. However, they play four of their remaining five matches at home and have only the Lions as an away fixture.
The Sharks, on the other hand, still have the Brumbies, Waratahs and Crusaders as away matches before they play the Cheetahs and Chiefs at home.
But they also look to have hit form at exactly the right time. — Sapa