Richie McCaw called Nathan Sharpe "a champion" after the Wallaby lock brought down the curtain on his record breaking Super Rugby career with a 38-24 defeat in Christchurch.
The Western Force veteran played his 162nd and final Super Rugby game against the Crusaders, but there was no dream ending. The only rugby left for the 34-year-old is an international swan-song in the Rugby Championship.
The 105 times capped Sharpe must have wondered what was going on when he found his side 32-3 adrift at the interval, the Crusaders having scored four first-half tries to put themselves on course for the bonus point win they needed to clinch a home play-off place.
But it was a different story in the second half as the Force scored three tries to at least win Sharpe’s final 40 minutes 21-6.
“Nathan is a big man who keep fronting up – he’s a champion. Playing 162 games of Super rugby is an awesome feat,” said Crusaders and All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw.
Sharpe told Wallaby coach Robbie Deans he was prepared to help out in the June tests against Scotland and Wales and delayed his retirement even further by offering to fill the gap created by injuries to Aussie skipper James Horwill and Dan Vickerman during the Rugby Championship.
He has, however, guaranteed his family he will finally quit at the end of this season and won’t be staying on to play against the British & Irish Lions next year.
“We had a very spirited comeback, but we gave them what they wanted in the first-half when they scored four tries. The Crusaders are the form team in the tournament,” said Sharpe.
“I have had some fantastic times with the Western Force and I was very proud of the way our youngsters played. But that’s it now – it’s all done and dusted.”