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Sharks arrival in Australia takes unexpected turn

The Sharks faced the Crusaders in last years Super Rugby qualifier but were eliminated

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Article Published: Wednesday 18 July 2012|

South Africa's Sharks arrived in Australia for the Super Rugby playoffs a lot later than planned and in a city they didn't expect to be playing in until some surprising results last weekend.

The Durban-based team will play the defending Super Rugby champion Reds on Saturday in the first round of the playoffs in Brisbane.

That will give the Sharks nearly five days to overcome their marathon trip from South Africa - a two-hour delay in Johannesburg and a missed connection from Sydney forced the team to split in two for flights north.

Coach John Plumtree had expected the Sharks to be playing in Canberra against the Brumbies, who had a five-point lead over the Reds for first place in the Australian conference going into the final round.

But the Reds' bonus-point victory over the Waratahs coupled with the Brumbies' surprise 30-16 loss to the Blues left the Reds in first place and one of four teams contesting the first round.

The Sharks provided some drama of their own in the final round, coming back from 15-6 down at halftime to beat the Cheetahs 34-15 and secure the bonus-point win they needed to take sixth spot.

"We thought we might be going to Canberra but it all unfolded in the last weekend - it was amazing," Plumtree said.

The lengthy trip meant the Sharks were unaware until they arrived in Australia that Reds playmaker Quade Cooper had received a one-match ban for a dangerous tackle on Waratahs center Berrick Barnes.

Queensland said Wednesday it was "seriously considering" appealing.

"I didn't even know about it because we were in the air straight after the game," Plumtree said.

"It is big news for them. But they have faith in their backup (Ben Lucas) so I am sure it won't make too much of a difference. "

"We have just been focusing on getting over our trip and on what we are going to do."

The Sharks have won six of their past seven matches - all in South Africa - while the Reds, with Cooper back in the lineup after a near eight-month layoff due to knee surgery, have won six in a row.

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