Sharks bask in glory

2013-10-28 00:00

CAPTAIN Keegan Daniel said the timely return of their Springboks had been a major factor in the Sharks’ 33-19 upset win over Western Province in the Currie Cup final at Newlands on Saturday evening.

The Sharks flew back to a rapturous welcome in Durban yesterday with captain and coaches lauding the character and commitment of the players.

“Big players have big games on big occasions, and that’s what our Springboks did,” said Daniel.

Daniel said the Springboks playing to their potential had been decisive.

“When you get a Bok back, you want them to play like Boks. They have had a long year of national duty but they showed what the Sharks means to them.”

Coach Brad Macleod-Henderson agreed: “We brought back several Springboks for the match and they all showed pure class.”

The Sharks have been without the Du Plessis brothers, Bismarck and Jannie, Beast Mtawarira, Pat Lambie, Willem Alberts, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Marcell Coetzee and Frans Steyn for most of the Currie Cup, and Western Province coach Allister Coetzee highlighted the impact they had made on Saturday.

“That is the experience you need in a final, and they really pitched unlike on the previous occasion [in Durban a fortnight ago].

“Their set pieces were much better, they really exerted pressure at lineout time and they comprehensively outplayed us.”

Coetzee described the performance of man-of-the-match Du Toit, who out-performed Springbok lock Eben Etzebeth, as “outstanding”.

Coetzee said that Province had been out-thought by the Sharks and hinted that someone — perhaps the Cape-based Sharks coach Brendan Venter — had provided the Sharks with inside knowledge.

“They were tactically good and they took us out of our comfort zone, forcing us to deal with chip kicks behind the rucks. Someone knows a lot about our defence system,” he said.

The Sharks had applied pressure with their tactical kicks, he said, rather than keeping the ball in hand.

“We could not engage with the Sharks and then they were then coming off the line hard and disrupting the breakdown. It was a very effective plan. They suffocated us and took their opportunities.”

“The Sharks have never been harder at the breakdown,” said Coetzee. “That is why they selected their big boys and that is why they won the collisions.

“We were always aware of the danger of the Sharks being written off. When you are favourites, you have to think and behave like underdogs. We had the desire but the Sharks’ game plan was spot on.”

Macleod-Henderson paid tribute to the Sharks’ intensity and energy.

“Physically the guys were amazing. We stood up in the contact area, our kicking game was strong and our defence was awesome. Those factors combined well for us.”

He said that flyhalf Pat Lambie had been particularly influential.

“He has an old head on young shoulders and is a class act.”

Daniel said the Sharks had planned to play away from Province’s strength which was their outstanding defence.

“Their defensive line is something they draw strength from. We wanted to avoid that by putting the ball behind them and turning them and not giving them chance to hit us back in the contact zone. It worked well. Our chase was good and we put them under pressure.”

Daniel also praised the efforts of the young Du Toit: “Pieter-Steph is going to one day have a great partnership with Eben [Etzebeth] for the Springboks. He is fantastic talent and we are lucky to have him.”

A final word for Jonathan Kaplan, who has now retired after 17 years of refereeing at the highest level. He handled a testing and emotional final exceptionally well and was in tears at the final whistle — along with the 47 000 Newlands crowd.

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