Sharks ‘ran out of momentum’

2008-05-25 00:00

Sydney — Dick Muir has not figured out why the Sharks underachieved in the Super 14 semi-final against the Waratahs. But what he does know is that the Australians played outstanding rugby here on Saturday.

"Rugby is about momentum and we never had any," the Sharks coach said after his team’s 28-13 defeat.

"The Waratahs’ defence and ball control were brilliant. They also kicked well, tactically.

"It is terribly disappointing for us to have come so far and been unable to play our game. We have some moments towards the end when we showed what our team was all about. They showed a lot of character," Muir said.

Waratahs coach Ewen McKenzie had reason to smile. Their results had eclipsed the most ambitious expectations of his employers.

However, if his bosses have it their way, McKenzie will have to pack his bags next week.

"I am delighted," McKenzie said. "Except for the fact that we tried to push through some passes, I feel it was a rather smart performance.

"There are some characteristics one needs to win. You have to be aggressive and you have to be able to score tries. We scored four."

The Sharks’ forwards were outplayed by a pack that was prepared to take on the South Africans in the lineout.

It was hard for the players to hear the lineout calls in the noisy stadium, but Muir conceded that the Australians had done their homework.

"I thought we should have speeded up our lineout. I don’t know to what extent the flight to Sydney affected them, but the players were never on the front foot."

The Sharks had to make a late change that cost them dearly, Muir said: Springbok AJ Venter had to be withdrawn shortly before the match because of a hand injury.

"We did not know how much that would disrupt the team. But in the end, the Waratahs were simply so much better than we were."

Epi Taione replaced Venter and things went badly wrong for the Tongan.

"I thought Epi would get us across the advantage line," Muir said. "He was a little rusty after being out of rugby for six weeks. It did not work for us, but one must admit he tried to the end.

"When Jean Deysel came on he carried the ball better than Epi had done."

The Waratahs were streets ahead of the Sharks, but failed to run away on the scoreboard. Their poor goal kicking kept the visitors in the game, at least mathematically.

"The knockout came just after halftime when they scored two tries," Muir said. "We felt that even though we trailed 15-6 at the break, things could have been worse.

"We could have fought back if we scored first in the second half. Even when we trailed by twelve points with ten minutes to go there may have been a chance."

Muir feels the result of the Super 14 final, to be played in Christchurch on Saturday, may not be as much of a foregone conclusion as some people think.

"Any team that control the ball well against the Crusaders have a chance. The Waratahs also defend well. The two best teams in the competition are in the final."

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