‘The pack must take all the credit’

2013-07-01 00:00

CARETAKER coach Hugh Reece-Edwards said he should not receive kudos for the Sharks’ irresistible forward display, which secured a 22-20 Super Rugby win over the Auckland Blues at King’s Park on Saturday.

The burly Reece-Edwards, the former Natal and Springbok fullback, is coaching the team with Grant Bashford, once a scrumhalf, in place of the discarded John Plumtree.

“I may now look like a prop and a forward coach,” he said with a smile, “but the pack must take all the credit. The players got together themselves and took responsibility for their performance.

“They wanted this one and they really believed they were better than the Blues’ tight five and went out and proved it. So hats off to them.”

Bashford said the win was a crucial one for the Sharks after what had been the toughest of weeks.

“The way the guys responded was fantastic. We had a great first half and our forwards squashed them in the scrums and lineouts.”

The Sharks should have led by more than 17-5 at the break, he said, and the Blues had then shown how dangerous they could be with ball in hand in the second half.

The two coaches were critical of the Sharks’ second-half tactical kicking, which allowed the Blues to counter.

“We gave the Blues ball in broken play and they hurt us,” said Bashford. “But we did show character to hang in there and it was a great effort to win in the last minute.”

Bashford admitted it had been an emotional day for the players and coaching staff.

“Plum has been a huge part of this union and Keegan Daniel [captain] spoke before the game about the importance of playing for him.”

Bashford also praised the effort of the forwards, boosted by the return of a number of players from injury.

“We know with this pack, with our Boks back, we can match any pack in the world and we saw that with this win. When they put their minds to it, there aren’t too many who are going to stop them, and it was good to see them operating as they did.”

But even in victory there were concerns. Daniel continued to struggle with his form at number eight while the backline, short of pace and penetration, tended to play across the field.

The Sharks coaching staff might also consider swopping flyhalf Pat Lambie with inside centre Butch James.

“Butch [at centre] still has slick hands, but he is not the quickest,” Reece-Edwards said later, admitting that the loss of five specialist centres had left the Sharks short in midfield.

Meanwhile, Blues coach Sir John Kirwan said that his players were “gutted” by the last-second defeat.

“We had no ball in the first half, and a 7-1 penalty count against us, but we exploded in the second half when we had some possession and I thought we had done enough to win. A couple of calls went against us at the end, but that’s the game.”

Kirwan said his forwards had been handed a lesson in the scrums. “We have a very young front row and they battled hard.”

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