DURBAN – It would seem that there is something in the Durban air that brings out the best in Argentinian rugby players after the Jaguares recorded probably the second best achievement in their country’s rugby history by savaging the Sharks 51-17 at the weekend.
The Jaguares’ celebrations in their change-room at Jonsson Kings Park on Saturday night was, of course, a throwback to the singing and dancing that went on in that same dressing-room in 2015 after the Pumas beat the Springboks for the first time.
That night, Bok coach Heyneke Meyer was pale and drawn when he addressed the media and could only offer the “no excuses” line.
In that same chair in the Sharks media centre, Robert du Preez on Saturday night was a mixture of bewilderment, disappointment and, no doubt, some anger. Quite right, too, seeing as he had just seen everything he warned his charges about come true.
Talk all week was about keeping the foot on the gas from the Lions win, to maintain that hard-earned momentum at all costs… but instead of hitting the ground running, there was a resounding splat.
The shell-shocked coach put it down to what he called the “no-talent stuff”, by which he means what goes on inside the players’ heads.
“All the no-talent stuff let us down. Mindset, attitude, all those things,” Du Preez said. “How else can you explain going from playing incredible rugby one week to a game like this. It is just not good enough.”
Sharks fans will agree. The inconsistency is just not good enough and is trying on the patience of supporters who have to digest jubilation and disappointment in equal measure, from week to week. Again, Du Preez agrees.
“We were just incredibly poor today. All the good work that we did the week before (against the Lions) was undone,” he lamented. “In the space of a week we went from probably the best performances in years to one of the worst performances…”
It was certainly a game in which a number of big-name Sharks did not pitch up for work, waiting for the player next to him to make things happen. Not all of them were in cruise mode, though. Lanky lock Hyron Andrews was the best of the Sharks’ forwards and he embarrassed some of his teammates with the venom with which he punched above his weight.
The front row scrummed well in the first half and it was a clear area of domination until the Jaguares fixed their scrum in the second half, notably when veteran hooker Agustin Creevy came on. As for the backs, Curwin Bosch aside, they were atrocious.
The sideways shuffling was painful to watch. In mitigation, they did not get the front-foot ball of the Lions match but even so, fans expected much more invention from a backline in which every player has been capped by the Boks.
The Sharks host the Reds on Friday and will no doubt deliver a rousing performance. That will be good and well, but it won’t undo the afternoon when the Sharks shipped 50 points on the green grass of home.