Only complacency can rob the Sharks of finishing at the summit of the Super 14 table.
Having concluded their Australasian tour with a three from four return, the Sharks will play six of their seven remaining matches at fortress King’s Park.
To underline just how dominant the Sharks have been in Durban – the last time they lost at home in the league phase of the competition was against Saturday’s opponents, the Brumbies, in 2007.
A glance at their remaining home fixtures suggests they have every chance of keeping that formidable record intact.
They should bank five points against the Brumbies and Highlanders, while they can be expected to negotiate the challenge of the Hurricanes, Crusaders, Waratahs and Bulls. The embattled Cheetahs are their sole away fixture, and Naka Drotske’s battered bunch should pose few problems.
After six matches in 2008 they had amassed 25 points, four more than they have at present, but still had five tough matches in Australasia to play. They won one, lost three and drew one of those matches. This time around they’ve already completed the tour with significantly improved results.
Last year they finished third having accumulated 42 points. One suspects that the diluted strength of the top Australasian sides as a result of the mass European exodus will see them drop points along the way, and as a result 42 points may be enough to secure a top-placed finish.
That would mean collecting 21 points from their remaining seven matches, and most would expect them to surpass that total comfortably.
The Sharks displayed their fallibility against the Reds, but one sensed that had more to do with complacency after four rounds of dominance than it did with the Reds being tactically superior.
Provided they don’t serve up another limp performance like the one in Brisbane, the Sharks are odds on to finish at the summit.
Only four times in 13 years of Super Rugby have the hosts lost a semi-final and just four times have the visitors caused an upset in a final. This highlights the importance of securing the top spot in the league phase of the tournament.
The Sharks are in a position to write their own magnificent story, which is a position most sides would die to be in.
By Ryan Vrede