A proud performance

2014-10-22 00:00

ALTHOUGH the Sharks were mauled by the Lions in the Currie Cup semi-final last weekend, both captain and coach were positive about their team’s performance throughout the season.

The Sharks won seven out of 11 games, and their five-match unbeaten run leading up to the semi-final boded well for the Durban side. Unfortunately a trip to Ellis Park was a step too far.

“There are lots of pros — quite a few players came through and showed their talent. It was great to see the development of Tera as a leader and his form on the field. That was definitely a big highlight for us,” said Sharks coach Brad Macleod-Henderson.

The coach was also happy to see the likes of scrumhalf Cameron Wright and prop Thomas du Toit, who were both still in school last year, with a Currie Cup season under their belts, while the “old guard” of Jacques Botes and Marco Wentzel, among others, made great contributions.

“The guys scored some great tries — they developed and grew as a team from when we started to the finish. We played better rugby toward the back end of the competition. Those are all the highlights, but obviously the big negative is that we are not in the final this weekend.”

That disappointment may have been compounded by the Sharks’ ambitions to defend their Currie Cup title.

Although they weren’t able to do that, Macleod-Henderson was pleased his team continued to improve with such a short preparation period before the competition.

In that one week of pre-season training, Tera Mtembu was named captain of the youthful side — a role he has relished.

“It put pressure on me to perform week in and week out, and I think I handled it quite well, and I enjoyed the experience. Personally, I want to be a regular starter in Super Rugby next year, but we all know that there is healthy competition and there are quality players,” Mtembu said.

The Sharks are gifted with a number of good loose forwards, but the captain made some strong statements this season, and their win over the Bulls in Pretoria is his fondest memory.

“Leading up to that game, I had never won against the Bulls, so it was good to win there. Also, being captain and getting man of the match was great — that was the highlight for me,” he said.

Another feature of the Currie Cup was the omission of Springbok players.

Macleod-Henderson has seen both sides of the coin, with the Boks returning during last year’s Currie Cup, while no contracted Boks featured this year.

“It’s nice to start with a group of players and allow them to have opportunities to play in the semis and finals. But at the same time, as a competition, I can understand that there are sponsorship responsibilities, and supporters want to see big-name players, so it’s always a balancing act.

“It’s great to work with the guys you’ve been with for the last couple of weeks, but at the same time you don’t want to turn away world-class players,” the coach said.

Looking ahead to the final this weekend, Macleod-Henderson can take a step back and watch as a spectator. Having played both Western Province and the Lions in the last two weeks, he speculated the Lions could be too strong up front.

“Province playing at home will probably start as favourites, but it will be interesting to see how they deal with the Lions’ scrum. They’ve got a fantastic scrum, and everyone knows it all starts up front. If the Lions get the nudge on them there, they could push them all the way.”

The Sharks are expected to announce the coaching staff for the 2015 Super Rugby competition in the next few weeks.

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