Black Friday weekend came a week too soon for the South African teams as all four lost in bleak United Rugby Championship round five action. To say that a response is required this weekend is an understatement, especially now that the Lions and Bulls join the Sharks on home soil and the Stormers conclude their tour.
The Capetonians have lost three of their five fixtures but how they fought back in their second half against Munster suggests their revival is under way, and it is vital that they kick on and beat a very beatable Cardiff at The Arms Park.
The Sharks had only themselves to blame for losing by a single point to a Connacht side that had to rely on their defence to secure the victory at Kings Park.
The Durbanites enjoyed 65% of possession and territory and at times were impressive on attack but elementary errors were their undoing, not the least of which were two fluffed shots at goal that could have been kicked blindfolded.
It was interesting to note the words of the Connacht try scorer, the gnarled Ireland veteran Seán O’Brien, who spoke of the difficulty of playing in South Africa.
“We said coming down here that South Africa is the land of physicality and they are going to bring a huge physical edge. We definitely felt that all game,” he said after the 13-12 win.
“You just have to get yourself in a space mentally and be ready to deliver that physical performance. We are all really happy with how we fronted up with that.
“We are delighted to come out the right side of it. That was a really tough battle. It was really hot out there and humid.
“We are all really happy how we stuck together and got it done. It wasn’t pretty, but we managed to get the win in the end.”
That said, the South African teams have to make home-ground advantage count. The Sharks and Lions struggled on their four-match overseas tour and now they must dish out the pain in the South African summer.
The fourth-placed Connacht travel up from Durban to Pretoria where they will be looking for another scalp on South African soil but the Bulls must make the altitude count with a fast-paced game.
Similarly, the Zebre team that inched past the Sharks in Parma for their first win in 28 games must be beaten at Ellis Park by a Lions team that too many times stays in the fight but can’t land the knockout blow.
The Sharks host Welsh strugglers the Dragons and if they are not slayed at 7pm on Saturday, the Shark Tank might as well shut down.