CAPETOWN (Reuters) – The Sharks not only have the burden of beating the ACT Brumbies away in Canberra to advance in the Super Rugby playoffs but also need to overcome an exhausting travel that would tax any team.
The Durban-based side are away in Australia on Saturday in the quarter-finals of the competition, having scored a dramatic away win in Cape Town last Saturday.
A last-gasp try gave them a 12-9 win at the Stormers in their last game of the regular season and a place in the playoffs.
It meant having to rush home to Durban on Sunday — a two-hour plane trip — and after just a few hours travel back to the airport to fly for an hour to Johannesburg and then to Australia on Sunday night.
That 12-hour journey put the team in Sydney on Monday afternoon local time where they chose to stay at Coogee, which they have used as their base previously.
“It’s very comfortable here and a place that we are used to,” captain Louis Schreuder said in an interview from Sydney.
“The weather has been good and we have had a chance to relax before the Brumbies games, even though we had a crazy chase from Cape Town to get back home to Durban, pack again and get ready to go to Sydney.”
But their travel odyssey is not over yet.
On the eve of Saturday’s match, the team took a four-hour bus trip from Sydney to Canberra, where Schreuder said they will face a tough challenge from their hosts.
“They are a very physical side, not your typical Aussie team,” he said. “The work of their tight five is outstanding and their tactical kicking very good. They are the best organised of all the Australian teams.”
But the Sharks fancy their chances of pulling off another away upset and advancing to a semifinal against either the Jaguares or Waikato Chiefs.
“We got a lot of confidence from those last minutes against the Stormers. Our character was tested and our guys passed that test with flying colours,” Schreuder said.
“We were in a position where we absolutely need to keep possession and score a try. We did exactly that and it was with that confidence that we climbed on the plane to get here.”
If the Sharks win they will either go back to Durban to host the Chiefs or onto Buenos Aires to meet the Jaguares — more exhausting travel.
(Reporting by Mark Gleeson; Editing by Sudipto Ganguly)