It might seem hard to believe but the Sharks have actually delivered a worse Super Rugby performance than this, they truly have, but never in 20 years of the competition has there been an embarrassment in Durban quite like this.
That infamous 5-6 reverse to the Queensland Reds in 2004 was shocking beyond description, although there was just a single point to separate two equally useless teams that day, but this shocker will be sadly remembered for a stunningly inept performance from a Sharks team that went into the match third on the overall table, top of the SA Conference, and protesting that the Sanzar judicial world was against them.
Sharks coach Gary Gold was the first to state that he and his players had nowhere to hide.
“There is nothing more that we can do than apologise for that performance,” Gold said in echoing the words of his captain, Patrick Lambie, to the crowd at the final whistle.
“It is not just the fact that we copped 50 points, but the manner in which we did,” Gold said. “You see the ball bouncing in your 22, and there is no urgency to grab it …you look for the spark, but it is not there …
“We just kept giving them soft opportunities,” Gold said of a first half an hour in which the Crusaders went 28-0 up. “It was an unacceptable performance and I am not going to blame the players, I take the responsibility myself. I put my hand up and we will fix it. We have to show some character now … and some discipline.”
Indeed there have been times when the Sharks have been wronged off the field, but boy you cannot argue with the relentless stream of red cards against them. The cards just keep coming and at some point it has to be said the Sharks players are no longer defendable.
Let’s pull out a moment in the 39th minute. The Sharks are a few metres from the Crusaders’ posts. The visitors have been no angels in the first half an hour and incredibly are down to 12 men through three yellow cards. The Sharks sense they can make inroads on the daunting 3-28 deficit on the scoreboard. So Jean Deysel (allegedly) knees a Crusaders player in the head and is red-carded.
The scoring chance is gone, and so is Deysel.
Seconds later, the half-time whistle sounds, and the booing starts. What a load of rubbish, the diehards chant …. And who is going to disagree?
Honestly, this was terrible. And there was nobody to blame. Not the resting of Springboks, not the suspension of players. For heaven’s sake, at one point there were only 12 Kiwis on the field.
The Sharks quite simply did not play any rugby. There was nothing going on from them, and once the visitors found themselves 28-0 up after a quarter of the game, they did not have to raise themselves to any great lengths, although they stretched themselves enough in the second half to add another four – at a canter.
Gold wryly agreed that the big story will be that that the Sharks cannot abide by the rule book, no matter how they try to defend themselves off the field. The perceived bias of the Kiwis and Aussies in Sanzar does not matter anymore because the players keep undoing whatever good their officials do behind the scenes.
“I know our discipline is going to become a big media story,” Gold said. “All I can say is that we certainly do not coach or condone foul play. I can understand why this will be milked.
“When Jean was carded, there was disbelief in our coaching box. That was our last chance in the game,” Gold said. “It was like a kick in the stomach. Jean apologised after the game. He is not a malicious player. He was up for the game … but we have to understand that we have to control the red mist.
“This competition is hard enough as it is. We had this conversation a few weeks ago,” Gold said. “It is frustrating. Judicial hearings is not where I want to spend my time during the week. I will have my tough words with the players but I am not going to hang them out to dry in the press. This is a heck of wake-up call. It cannot happen again.”
Sharks (3) 10
Crusaders (28) 52
Sharks: Try: Odwa Ndungane Penalty: Lambie. Conversion: Fred Zeilinga
Crusaders: Tries: Andy Ellis, Israel Dagg, Kieron Fonotia, Ryan Crotty, Colin Slade, David Havili, Matt Todd, Tom Taylor. Conversions: Colin Slade (4), Tom Taylor.
By Mike Greenaway
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