Sharks still gutted, looking for answers

2012-11-01 00:00

FOUR days of introspection and analysis have left the Sharks’ coaches and managers no nearer explaining exactly how their heavily-fancied team contrived to lose the weekend Currie Cup final against Western Province.

Assistant coach Grant Bashford yesterday bravely relived the pain as he tried to provide some explanation for bewildered Sharks fans.

“We are all absolutely shattered,” he said. “You get one shot at the title and on the day we weren’t good enough. We’re gutted.”

Frustrated supporters want a simple reason for why their team has lost, and a scapegoat is handy, but a combination of factors usually lead to a sporting failure.

Bashford agreed.

“Obviously everyone has spoken about our lineout not functioning on Saturday, and that was a big problem in the game because every time we got an opportunity, we ended up defending again and we couldn’t get any momentum.

“But that was only part of it. We turned over a number of balls and committed handling errors. It was one of those days you hope you never have in a final, but unfortunately it happened and Province played better than us on the day.”

Bashford dismissed the notion that the Sharks were not hungry enough on the day.

“Looking back at our preparation for the game, we had a really good build-up and everyone was confident going into the match without being over-confident.

“We believed that if we played well, we would have the better of them. Unfortunately, we didn’t play well enough and it was the most frustrating of evenings.”

He said that parts of the Sharks’ game, even in defeat, were impressive.

“Pat [Lambie] kicked well so every time we had opportunities to put points on the board, we did. Defensively, we were at 93%, so it wasn’t as if we tackled badly.

“But there was the one defensive error and they were under the poles [with Juan de Jongh scoring] which cost us seven points.

“It was one of those days when the little mistakes cost us points and then we couldn’t get our game going because we were turning ball over, and the ball we were getting from our set piece was getting turned over.”

Bashford is confident about the future and believes the groundwork has been done.

“I don’t think we are far off and we did play in both finals [Super Rugby and Currie Cup] this year. If we had been told at the beginning of the year that we would make two finals, we would have taken that though, of course, it is still hugely disappointing at the end.

“But you have to do a whole lot of things right just to get to finals.

“We put the Super Rugby final loss [in New Zealand] down to weeks of travel and it was simply a bridge too far.

“We were pretty consistent with a young squad during the Currie Cup. We did battle to win away from home at times, but we were able to beat the Cheetahs away as well as Western Province and we did enough in the latter stages to force a home final.

“We played pretty well in the semi-final [20-3 win over the Blue Bulls] so there was good momentum going into the final and we thought we integrated the Boks back into the team pretty well.

“But Saturday showed, again, that underdogs can win finals.

“Nothing in a one-off game is a given and you need to perform on the day. We didn’t and we failed.”

Bashford said the coaching staff and management were concerned that the Sharks had lost three finals (two in the Currie Cup and one in Super Rugby) inside a year.

“It really hurts. Obviously there will be changes going forward.

“You can’t keep doing the same things and you have to change with every campaign and try to do things better.

The aim, said Bashford, is to grow and improve in certain areas.

“If we do that, we could be in for some really good times at the Sharks,” he added.

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