The Napier game between the Hurricanes and Sharks had lessons for both teams, and a huge life lesson for everybody else.
The Sharks were magnificent, with their aggressive attack and defence (mostly), a ray of hope for them and the Springboks. Every forward charge had mean intent and generally made progress even while being tackled. Their backs had a similar goal, and if they weren’t running into gaps they were powering into the tackle and setting up the next assault.
In all they must have dominated about 80 per cent of the game. They have to ask themselves why they didn’t win from there.
The Hurricanes were freak opportunists, who created or exploited any chances that came their way while messing around in a lot of their play. The kickoffs were a classic demonstration of how superior the Sharks were in the fundamentals.
Every Shark dropout towered into the air and gave their players so much time to get to the ball deep in the Hurricanes’ half. The Hurricanes’ dropouts were meek hand-overs of the ball to the opposition, who promptly returned the ball to the half way. Well into the second half the Hurricanes tried a short kick, which was a long time to absorb what was going on.
The Hurricanes badly missed the never-say-die physicality of Ardie Savea. He has the same refusal to stop which makes Jean-Luc Du Preez such a good player. Without Savea the Hurricanes forwards can get bullied, as they were at Napier.
Also Ihaia West showed his flair and his flakiness. Brilliant moments, like his backhander for the first try and his resilience to kick the last conversion to win the game, counterbalanced by his first conversion miss, the kick out on the full, and the almost charge down which ironically led to Vince Aso’s try – possibly a 14-point turn around.
The Sharks need to understand why they lost a game they totally dominated. The Hurricanes need to get a lot more physical and not rely on freakish talent to save them – they’ve used up all their get out of jail free cards. And we all can learn a lesson.
How the Sharks have revived their fortunes from the rabble that lost to the Rebels; how the Hurricanes kept at it when all seemed lost; and what a fantastic game rugby can be when both sides give it a go.