Sharks made to pay for individual errors in tight match

2012-04-23 00:00

SHARKS coach John Plumtree blamed a lack of individual skill at crucial moments for his team’s narrow 18-12 loss to the log-leading Chiefs in a bruising Super Rugby game at King’s Park on Saturday night.

The Sharks did all the hard work in a tight contest, and effectively wrapped up the highly talented Chiefs backline for long periods, but their finishing touches went missing and they again fell agonisingly short of victory.

“We had opportunities to score but we didn’t execute them well,” said Plumtree. “That’s the difference between winning and losing. The effort and commitment was there, the plan we had in place was working well and we were putting them under a lot of pressure.

“But the little opportunities we had, we didn’t take, and ultimately that was the difference,” he said.

A frustrated Plumtree said that team success depended on individual accuracy.

“Individual errors, a dropped pass, an inaccurate kick or poor execution in the lineout, can be costly. But that’s what team sport is about, individuals make mistakes and we just made too many on the night.”

The Sharks coach said that Chiefs, the leading team in the competition, had not been any better on the night.

“We had more opportunities, we created more chances. The Chiefs are right up and maintaining their level of performance but we’re struggling to put those wins together. That’s the difference.”

The Sharks defence was superb on the night though they conceded two tries, the first when the Chiefs were helped by a midfield obstruction to shield try-scorer Aaron Cruden and the second after the final hooter had sounded and the Sharks were caught looking to the change-room by scrumhalf Augustine Pulu.

Certainly the dangerous Sonny Bill Williams and the Chiefs outside backs were not a factor.

“We had a plan for Sonny Bill, and it worked nicely. We kept them fairly quiet all night really, and we never felt really stressed,” said Plumtree.

The result was that the Chiefs played a largely kicking game in the second half.

“They didn’t want to give the ball any width and they were taking the ball around the edge of the rucks and that wasn’t bothering us.

“But the commitment at breakdown and defence was up there from both sides. The difference was that we just were not accurate enough on attack.”

Plumtree said he thought the Sharks would come through in the final quarter to win.

“I thought they looked a bit more tired than us and we looked to be gaining real ascendancy with the crowd energising us. I thought we’d finish stronger, but in the last 10 or 15 minutes when we were one point behind, we couldn’t get the territory we needed to get that penalty we needed to win.”

Plumtree said the Chiefs deserved credit.

“They know how to win and they did enough to do win … just.”

The Sharks lost some of their momentum when the powerful flank Willem Alberts left the field at half-time with a sore shoulder but Plumtree praised the efforts of loose forwards Jacques Botes and Keegan Daniel at the breakdown.

“They did a lot of damage. But now it’s backs to the wall stuff. We have to play really well in May, that’s the message, if we can come up with the same commitment and attitude and just get a bit more accurate, then we’ll be hard to beat — just as we were in this match. That’s what we’ve got to believe in.”

Chiefs coach Dave Rennie said he was relieved to emerge with the four points: “There was plenty of character in this game and our players worked hard for each other when we were under real pressure.

“There were a lot of mistakes and the Sharks dictated the pace of the game and we chased them a lot. I’m not sure how many tackles we had to make, but there was a heap. At times we were stretched but this highlighted the character of the group. In other years, we might have got nailed, but we managed to get the result this time.”

Rennie praised the way the Sharks had contained Sonny Bill Williams.

“They targeted Sonny’s ball-carrying arm and dislodged the ball and he couldn’t get the support runners away.”

The Sharks have their bye this weekend and this will leave them with a fortnight to repair damaged bodies and minds before they face the Highlanders in Durban. With seven matches still to be played, five in Durban, there is still time to revive their campaign. But this home loss on Saturday evening has reduced their margin of error.

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