Waratahs hopes alive after edging Sharks - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Waratahs hopes alive after edging Sharks

By Darren Walton 10/05/2009 02:29:52 PM Comments (0)

Not even an unprecedented winning treble in South Africa will guarantee NSW a Super 14 finals berth after the rugby gods conspired against the gallant Waratahs in Durban on Saturday.

The Waratahs kept the Sharks tryless at home for the first time in a decade of Super rugby to keep their playoff hopes flickering with a gritty 16-12 victory at ABSA Stadium.

But after a picture perfect week in Durban, the heavens opened on game day, with torrential rain falling for almost the entire match.

The foul weather thwarted the Waratahs' attempts to secure a desperately-needed bonus point and left the 2008 runners-up needing a minor miracle to make the playoffs.

NSW will enter the final round in seventh spot on the congested ladder - just one competition point adrift of the fourth-placed Crusaders but requiring a series of results to go their way to keep their season alive.

The Waratahs must score a bonus-point win over the 11th-placed Lions in Johannesburg next Saturday morning (AEST) - which would complete the first-ever hat-trick in the republic by an Australasian team in Super rugby - and pray that three teams above them falter.

The Tahs' best hope would seem to be the table-topping Bulls beating the sixth-placed Sharks in Durban, the second-placed Chiefs downing the fifth-placed Brumbies in Hamilton and the Blues denying the Crusaders a bonus-point win in Auckland.

Waratahs coach Chris Hickey said where there was life, there was hope.

"There's still some important games next week to be played that will influence the make-up of that final four," Hickey said.

"The only thing we can influence is what we do. We won't be worrying too much about what other teams are doing.

"We'll just keep our focus on ourselves and prepare well for that game against the Lions.

"That's a game we really need to win. The other games will go how they go and we'll see where we stand at the end."

The Waratahs scored the only two tries on Saturday to twice come from behind to record one of their most impressive wins of the season.

Timana Tahu's 30th-minute strike and a second-half effort from winger Peter Playford - a game-day replacement for Rob Horne (hamstring) - plus two penalty goals from Daniel Halangahu trumped four penalty goals from Sharks five-eighth Ruan Pienaar.

"It was a fantastic defensive effort," Hickey said.

"We were under a lot of pressure at times and had to contend with a reasonably high penalty count against us.

"I'm not sure how many times the Sharks have been kept to no tries at King's Park."

But, as has been the case too often this campaign, the Waratahs were left to lament their failure to pick up a bonus point.

"We came here to play rugby. We came here to score four tries. Obviously the conditions changed that," NSW captain and man of the match Phil Waugh said.

"They were keen to throw the ball around as well. I think both teams tried to play, but it was difficult in those conditions."

Having also accounted for the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein, the Waratahs are on the brink of an history-making three-game unbeaten tour of South Africa.

"We're pretty pleased obviously so far," Hickey said.

"But the reality is, if we don't turn up and play well next week, those other two games don't count for a whole lot.

"We need to come back with three wins from three games. If we can do that, we keep ourselves in the fight for a final-four spot."

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