Shaky Sharks pay the price for sloppy, naive game against slick Stormers outfit

2011-04-04 00:00

THE Sharks’ naivety, their shaky response to pressure and their lack of finish on attack were the principle reasons for their 16-6 Super Rugby defeat by the Stormers at King’s Park on Saturday night.

Head coach John Plumtree, reflecting on the Sharks’ third successive loss, refused to blame travel fatigue for the sloppy display.

“Yeah, we’ve been around the world a couple of times, but I don’t think it was a case of us being tired out there,” Plumtree said. “We didn’t look tired and there was plenty of effort put in.

“It was just a case of us being 10% off in almost every area of our game and the fact that we were up against a very good Stormers team.”

The Sharks’ poor ball retention, even before the sudden rain of the second half, prevented their building the phases and gaining any momentum.

“It was very disappointing,” said Sharks captain Stefan Terblanche.

“We broke through the Stormers’ defence on a couple of occasions, but we just couldn’t finish. Our handling was poor and we couldn’t keep the ball.”

It was not the Sharks’ only problem on the night. Their lineout work was again shoddy and their pedestrian attempts to fashion backline movements many metres behind the advantage line played into the Stormers’ hands.

This time their physicality did not save them as the Stormers backrow of Schalk Burger, Francois Louw and Duane Vermeulen were quite prepared to swap bruise for bruise in a contest of needle and niggle.

Stormers captain Burger was delighted with the victory.

“Absolutely fantastic,” he said. “We don’t have a good record at King’s Park and we haven’t won here since 2004. It was the same at Loftus, but the wheel turns,” he said of the Stormers’ away victories over both the Bulls and the Sharks, which have cemented the unbeaten Cape Town team’s position at the top of the log.

He said the Stormers’ plan was to impose themselves physically upon the Sharks.

“It’s the same with all the South African derbies. These games are of Test match intensity.”

But, Burger emphasised, there was still some distance to travel with the play-offs “still four months away”.

His coach, Allister Coetzee, agreed.

“I was very happy with the team’s resilience and the composure we showed,” he said.

“We showed we have grown mentally since last year. There is still a long way to go in this competition and the job is not done. The rugby is really physical and intense and we all know that at some stage of the tournament our depth will be tested.”

While the Stormers’ backrow excelled, flyhalf Peter Grant was composed and accurate and centre Jaque Fourie was a constant threat.

Willem Alberts and Bismarck du Plessis led the Sharks’ physical effort and the scrummaging was solid, but there was little else to lift the many supporters on the night.

Plumtree said the Sharks had been naive in running the ball from the wrong areas in the first half.

“We played into the Stormers’ hands from an attack perspective. At times we should have kicked to relieve pressure, but we kept trying to play.

“We didn’t really dominate any territorial advantage. Our handling in contact let us down at times and our lineout didn’t function when it really needed to.”

In spite of their many problems, the Sharks could still have won the match had they taken advantage of a series of line breaks.

“We broke their line four or five times, but we were not accurate enough and did not cash in and we paid for it,” he added.

Plumtree paid tribute to the Stormers.

“They have confidence, they believe in each other and they’ve got a lot of outstanding players right through that whole team. So it was always going to be a big, tough game for us.”

The Sharks play the struggling Lions at King’s Park on Saturday night (7 pm) and have their bye over the weekend of April 15/16.

“Pat Lambie is expected back after our bye,” said Plumtree, not the only one counting down the days.

 

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