Neil Powell. (Photo Mandatory Credit Steve Haag/Gallo Images)
Sharks director of rugby Neil Powell was careful not to proclaim a turning point for the Durban franchise in the wake of their Challenge Cup win over French side Oyonnax on Saturday.
Powell, who did the media duties in the absence of head coach John Plumtree – who has gone back home to New Zealand to attend to family matters – was understandably happy with a bonus point win that temporarily took the Sharks to the top of Pool 1. (The previous leaders, the Cheetahs, are only playing on Sunday.) But he was loath – and rightly so – to pronounce it a watershed moment in a season in which they’d only won twice in their 11 matches in all competitions and are last on the United Rugby Championship (URC) table.
For starters, not only are Oyonnax basement dwellers in the Top 14 – they are 12th – they also brought a patchwork side for the clash against the Durban franchise, owing to their being close to the end of a 15-week-long sequence of fixtures. And while that made beating them a mere formality for the Sharks, there were questions about whether a similar performance from the hosts would have been sufficient to down a superior team.
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