Blue Monday in the no longer so-cock-a-hoop Cape. The Crusaders, minus a host of key players, came, saw and conquered

It is indeed a strange old game. Last week, thethe remorseful Sharks worked themselves into a frenzy of self-flagellation as they sort to redeem themselves against the Brumbies after their submission to the Stormers. It was all doom and gloom in Durban and the sack cloth and ashes were not far off.

But a week later it is Blue Monday in the no longer so-cock-a-hoop Cape. The Crusaders, minus a host of key players, came, saw and conquered, while in Durban the initially shaky Sharks shook off first-half jitters to blow away the Brumbies 34-16 and end the weekend just three points short of the Stormers when most had predicted the Cape team would beat the Cantabrians and maintain an eight-point cushion over their KZN rivals.

Mind you, during a diabolical first half at Kings Park, the Sharks were nose-diving to the ocean floor before getting their fins back onto the surface in a second half that was as impressive as the first half was dire.

“Frustration was our biggest enemy,” coach John Plumtree said. “At half-time the message was to relax and keep our cool while maintaining the intensity that had been there all along. We had been doing a lot of good things only to undo them and, to be fair, the Brumbies’ defence had been exceptional in the first half.”

Plumtree had told his players that the only way to exorcise the demons of Newlands was for the players to work hard for each other and to restore their pride.

“It was tough after losing to the Stormers,” he said. “The boys are really proud and we felt that we had let people down. At the best of times it is hard enough when you lose but the rivalry between the Stormers and the Sharks makes it difficult to pick yourself up and even by Thursday last week the guys were still down.”

Plumtree said the Crusaders’ performance in beating the Stormers was nothing short of incredible.

“It is frightening what they did given that they played most of that game short of eight first-choice players. It shows their character. When the pressure comes on against a tough team such as the Stormers they just pick up their intensity, they dig deeper. It is about the history of their jersey.”

The Crusaders lost three players in half an hour at Newlands, and with Dan Carter and Richie McCaw on the sidelines their injuries are adding up, but with a number of players due to return over the next month, it is difficult to see the Crusaders failing to win the 2011 title.

“It just shows you how tough this competition is in the collisions,” Plumtree said. “The side that has best depth in their squad will go through and be the strongest in play-offs. There are still six rounds to the play-offs , so eight matches to the final – that is huge when you think about it.”

The Sharks’ next match is against the Bulls at Kings Park on May 21.

by Mike Greenaway

www.iol.co.za

About Martin Myers
Music Supervisor / Artist and Talent Manager / Publicist / Music Exchange Founder / Owner Triple M Entertainment

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