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Sharks' long journey to the final

Date

Wellington

Sharks left-winger Lwazi Mvovo makes a break during the game against the Stormers.

Sharks left-winger Lwazi Mvovo makes a break during the game against the Stormers. Photo: Getty Images

SOUTH Africa's Sharks have criss-crossed the globe to reach the Super Rugby decider and now face one last, long journey to take on the Waikato-based Chiefs in the first final played in Hamilton.

The Sharks were forced to travel 11,000 kilometres from Durban to Brisbane for their quarter-final win over defending champion Queensland and, having passed that formidable obstacle, flew another 11,000 to Cape Town where, on Saturday, they beat the top-ranked Stormers 26-19.

Already travel-weary, the Sharks will this week rack up a further 11,000 kilometres to Auckland, followed by a 120-kilometre bus trip to Hamilton on NZ's North Island where the Chiefs lie in wait.

The Sharks defended with courage to hold out a late comeback by the Stormers, who seemed out of the match when J.P. Pietersen's try gave the Sharks a 14-point lead with 20 minutes remaining.

But Gio Aplon scored for the Stormers seven minutes later and the home team pressed relentlessly for the try that would have levelled the scores.

The visitors held on to complete an astonishing late-season comeback.

They seemed almost out of the reckoning with only weeks remaining in the regular season but they won three of their past four matches, beating both the Stormers and three-time champions the Bulls to grab the sixth and last play-off place.

They then toppled the Australian and South African conference winners to reach the final and must now beat the New Zealand conference champion to clinch their first title.

Coach John Plumtree said the Sharks had resolved during the break in the Super Rugby schedule for June Test matches to throw everything into a last-ditch bid to make the finals.

''The team started believing in themselves about 20 to 30 per cent more than when we were playing before the international break,'' Plumtree said.

''We were already playing knockout rugby, basically, several weeks ago so it hardened us, and the leadership grew with that. To go to Queensland and win last week and then come here to do it again was always going to be a huge task.''

AP

Rugby Internationals 2014

Round 1
Sat, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
SAM 18 vs TGA 18 Report Stats
FJI 25 vs ITA 14 Report Stats
NZL 20 vs ENG 15 Report Stats
AUS 50 vs FRA 23 Report Stats
Sun, 08 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 47 vs WXV 13 Report Stats
ARG 17 vs IRE 29 Report Stats
USA 6 vs SCO 24 Report Stats
CAN 25 vs JPN 34 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Sat, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
SAM 15 vs ITA Report Stats
FJI 45 vs TGA 17 Report Stats
NZL 28 vs ENG 27 Report Stats
AUS 6 vs FRA Report Stats
Sun, 15 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 38 vs WAL 16 Report Stats
CAN 17 vs SCO 19 Report Stats
ARG 17 vs IRE 23 Report Stats
USA 29 vs JPN 37 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 3
Sat, 21 JunTimes shown AEST
ARG 19 vs SCO 21 Report Stats
FJI 13 vs SAM 18 Report Stats
JPN 26 vs ITA 23 Report Stats
AUS 39 vs FRA 13 Stats
NZL 36 vs ENG 13 Report Stats
Sun, 22 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 31 vs WAL 30 Report Stats
USA 38 vs CAN 35 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 4
Sun, 29 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 55 vs SCO 6 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 5
Sun, 02 NovTimes shown AEDT
BAR 36 vs AUS 40 Report Stats
USA 6 vs NZL 74 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 6
Sun, 09 NovTimes shown AEDT
ITA 24 vs SAM 13 Report Stats
ENG 21 vs NZL 24 Report Stats
WAL 28 vs AUS 33 Report Stats
FRA 40 vs FJI 14 Report Stats
IRE 29 vs RSA 15 Report Stats
SCO 41 vs ARG 31 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 7
Sun, 16 NovTimes shown AEDT
ITA 18 vs ARG 20 Report Stats
ENG 28 vs RSA 31 Report Stats
WAL 17 vs FJI 13 Report Stats
SCO 16 vs NZL 24 Report Stats
FRA 29 vs AUS 26 Report Stats
Mon, 17 NovTimes shown AEDT
IRE 49 vs GEO 7 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 8
Sun, 23 NovTimes shown AEDT
ITA 6 vs RSA 22 Report Stats
SCO 37 vs TGA 12 Report Stats
IRE 26 vs AUS 23 Report Stats
WAL 16 vs NZL 34 Report Stats
ENG 28 vs SAM 9 Report Stats
FRA 13 vs ARG 18 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 9
Sun, 30 NovTimes shown AEDT
ENG 26 vs AUS 17 Report Stats
WAL 12 vs RSA 6 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
 
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