Beast is 100 not out on historic night for Sharks
Harare – It has taken seven years but Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira finally compiled a century of Super Rugby matches for the Sharks on an historic night in Christchurch, New Zealand, on Saturday,as records were shattered and super heroes born.
His front row partner, Jannie du Plessis, also celebrated 100 Super Rugby matches for the Sharks, on the same night, to add to the 26 matches that he also played, in the same competition, for the Cheetahs.
Mtawarira and his Sharks team produced a gusty show, which is being hailed as one of the greatest performances by a South African rugby team, as they became the first franchise from the Rainbow Nation to beat seven-time Super Rugby champions Crusaders in their backyard in 13 years.
The Sharks had never beaten the Crusaders, who have All Blacks skipper, Richie McCaw, in their line-up, in New Zealand and the Kiwis had not lost in their backyard to a South African side since losing to the Lions 31-32 in 2001.
Prior to Saturday’s match, the Crusaders had won their previous 50 home matches against South African and Australian opposition to build a formidable record, in their Christchurch fortress, that melted away the resistance of visitors even before they plunged into action.
That the Sharks played with 14 men, after Jean Deysel was red-carded for stomping Jordan Taufua in the face in the 16th minute, and then played with 13 men for 10 minutes, but still managed to beat the Crusaders 30-25, outscoring them three tries to one, put into perspective the special nature of this grand performance.
“I think that records are there to be broken,” Sharks director of coaching Jack White had said ahead of this monster clash. “To be fair, the Crusaders have lost two games at home this season (to Kiwi opposition), it's not impossible but we need to make sure we're up for it.”“The Crusaders are a good side, let's not forget they're an All Black laden side and they're a team that always hit their straps around this time of year.
So it is a difficult time to play them at a time in the season when they are on a high.
“In saying that, it's not mission impossible, we have to believe we have a chance and we've got to make sure we give it a crack.”
And crack it they did with a performance that had the rugby community, around the world, standing up to salute the heroic nature of the way the Sharks hunted and destroyed the Crusaders.
Replacement hooker Kyle Cooper scored the winning try, with five minutes remaining of an epic contest, to add to the tries scored by Sibusiso Sithole and Cobus Reinach.
“The Cell C Sharks were the talking point of Vodacom Super Rugby this past weekend following their record-breaking feat of defeating the Crusaders in Christchurch for the first time ever,” the Sharks official website gloated.
“Sometimes you win playing ugly, sometimes you lose playing entertaining rugby, but as a coach, nothing could beat the feeling of watching your team rewrite the history books playing with courage, commitment and character.
“For then, you know your players gave it their all. It was a performance to be proud of.
‘When the Cell C Sharks defeated the Crusaders in Christchurch, it was the first time in the history of the tournament.
It may well go down as a season-defining moment for the team.
“Their composure came under the spotlight, but their answer was an emphatic, overwhelming response – a brave one.”
Sharks skipper Bismarck du Plessis reserved special praise for his club’s centurions on this special night for the Durban franchise and South African rugby.
“I’m really, really proud of the guys, especially Jannie and Beast for playing their 100th games for the Cell C Sharks,” said du Plessis. “It’s pretty emotional for us, we’ve been here and come close but had never won here, so it’s a big thing for us.”
Mtawarira was at a loss of words after the emotional triumph on his special day for the Sharks.
“I think we believed all week, we trained well all week, we were a bit down after the Brumbies game but we picked ourselves up,” the Zimbabwe-born Springbok prop told a pitch-side journalist just after the victory. “The feeling is just amazing.”
Of course, it should be, especially for a man who has played 100 super Rugby games as a prop, something which isn’t easy, although Mtawarira appeared confident that his team, under the guidance of World Cup winning coach White, would always be a force this season.
“We've got great depth and it's something you'll see more as the season progresses,” he told Super XV.com, the official site of the Super Rugby championship.
“A lot of the guys have come of age and we've now got that experience on our side. You can hear on the field that everybody is talking and it's really great to have that.
“Jake has a certain way he wants to play. I think he's a very clever man and knows exactly what he's doing.”