Sharks assistant coach Dick Muir admitted his side had shot itself in the foot after losing 27-16 to the Stormers at Newlands on Saturday.
Had the Sharks won‚ they would have moved into eighth spot on the standings and in a play-off position. But they are now three points behind the Melbourne Rebels and face the Jaguares in Durban this week.
"We did shoot ourselves in the foot a bit as our destiny was in our hands and now it is not‚" said Muir. "Maybe we can still get through but we have work to do and the way I see it we need to bank on beating the Jaguares with a bonus point."
A bonus point win might not be required if the Rebels do not earn a point at all when they take on the Highlanders in Dunedin in their final match.
But if the Sharks do squeeze into the play-offs they will come up against the Crusaders in Christchurch‚ which is a daunting prospect.
Beating the Jaguares on Saturday is their first objective though. Of course‚ if the Rebels cause a major upset and beat the Highlanders earlier in the day‚ the Sharks are out of it regardless of what happens against the Jaguares.
Since 2015‚ the Rebels are the only Australia team to have beaten a New Zealand team away from home. That happened in early June when the Rebels beat the Blues 20-10 in Auckland.
The Sharks will also go into this week’s clash against the Jaguares without Jean-Luc and Daniel du Preez.
The Springbok back-row twins are both injured, with Daniel stretchered off against the Stormers at the weekend with what Muir described as a neck injury.
That was the reason Muir did post-match media duty‚ as Sharks head coach Robert du Preez went to hospital to be with Daniel‚ suggesting the injury might be serious.
Muir was cagey about whether he felt the Sharks had grown this season‚ particularly as they have only won six of 15 matches‚ with eight losses and a draw.
Against the Stormers they started slowly‚ conceding three first-half tries and trailing 21-9 at the break before producing a better second half.
"We have one good game and then one bad one‚ we have one good half and then a poor half‚" Muir said about the season.
"We went alright upfront today‚ it was just a combination of errors. We made 14 handling errors‚ which was uncharacteristic. We had no real front-foot ball and we couldn’t get our offloading game going. The Stormers deserve credit for defending really well. We had decided to play wide as we felt there were areas in the Stormers’ game that we could exploit. Maybe we tried to play a bit too much rugby."
• Stormers coach Robbie Fleck was a mixture of relief and frustration after the ending of a disappointing campaign in an uplifting way.
Three well-taken tries in the first half showed the potential the Stormers possess‚ only for them to become ragged and sloppy in the third quarter before finishing strongly again.
The Stormers have not been able to string an 80-minute performance together once during a campaign that saw them lose 10 of their 16 matches.
"It was nice to finish off on high and once again we showed so much promise by building a good halftime lead (21-9), but then let ourselves down a bit after the break‚" Fleck said.
Sloppy execution was one of the Stormers’ biggest problems this season.
If Fleck is retained as head coach‚ he understands that working on decision-making‚ offloading and composure are keys to improving in 2019.
Fleck and his staff will conduct a thorough review of the season with director of rugby Gert Smal. The outcome will then be presented to the Stormers’ board.