View from the South Terrace: Sharks

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When it comes to unlikely heroes the mind immediately thinks of Desmond Doss, the subject of the film Hacksaw Ridge, the hobbits in the Lord of the Rings franchise and, in a sporting sense, perhaps someone like Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards.

On a weekend though where the Wales football team suffered a desperately disappointing World Cup loss at the hands of Iran, and where the Wales rugby team blew a 20-point lead in 20 minutes at the hands of a depleted Australia, my unlikeliest of heroes were Cardiff Rugby travelling to face the Sharks in Durban.

Ahead of the mini-tour to South Africa I did have a weird feeling that the Blue and Blacks could be competitive at Kings Park. In many ways it was a role reversal from the last time we visited the Rainbow Nation as we travelled with some momentum from good results and match fitness from regular games, while the hosts have had an up-and-down season and played just once in six weeks.

On that topic; whoever thought up and arranged the friendly against Bristol should be getting free drinks at the Christmas party this year.

However, nobody in their wildest dreams could have foreseen the one-sided tactical and physical masterclass that Cardiff put on, a clinic in wet weather game management that underlines just how far this team is coming along from where it was at the back end of last season.

From the first minute to the last it was a hurricane of kick chase pressure, defensive solidity, breakdown threat, set piece strength and individual brilliance, all set against the backdrop of a downpour that would have made a lot of players feel like they were chucking a ball around Dowlais rather than Durban. 80 minutes of Welsh weather sent from above.

Thomas Young stole the headlines with two tries and a kick-and-chase from 65 metres that led directly to a penalty try, another tick in the standout performer column, but he was allowed to do that by those around him. The list of names would be too numerous to go through as the Blue and Blacks put in the most complete of team performances going.

The trick now for Dai Young and his coaches will be ensuring that the level stays high, and keeping feet on the ground just as we supporters must do as well.

Cardiff were excellent on Sunday but not many teams will crumble as spectacularly as the Sharks did, to the point that their head coach has been relieved of their duties this week. All the players can do is keep striving to perform at 100% and build week-on-week. This is still just a step on the process of building back up, albeit a longer stride than some of the others that will be taken.

Next weekend against the Bulls will be a significantly tougher test against a team who are in better form, fitter, and come with the challenge of playing at the Loftus Versfeld, 1350m above sea level, as the tunnel is keen to remind the opposition when taking the field.

Fortunately the Blue and Blacks go into the occasion with expectations surpassed from this South African tour, putting performance at the front and centre of everything we do on the field, and ensuring momentum is taken into the European Challenge Cup getting underway.

Any points will be good points for the saviours of Welsh sport.

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