It’s time to ‘man up’

2015-03-09 00:00

FOLLOWING their 29-13 loss to the Stormers on Saturday night, the Sharks find themselves in a precarious position on the Super Rugby log.

The Durban outfit have lost three of their four opening matches and sit 10th on the overall log with a solitary win over the Cheetahs. They are now fourth in the South African conference, and have a tough task ahead if they want to secure a home fixture in the knockout stages of the competition.

The Sharks had ample opportunity to beat the Stormers in Cape Town but the match was truly a tale of two halves. The visitors were well in the match at half time, which was reflected by the 10-9 half-time score line.

But a superb tactical kicking performance coupled with a much improved scrum saw the Stormers run away with the result in the second 40 minutes while the Sharks were left to introspective wound-licking over the weekend.

“At 30 minutes we were well in the contest. We played really well and kept the Stormers in a difficult position which is what they did to us in the second half. We didn’t execute from the opportunities we created,” Sharks director of rugby Gary Gold said after the match.

“I thought they played the territory game really well, they pinned us in our own half. When our set-piece faltered, they had us by the throat. I think they deserve the credit, it was a difficult night for us and it’s certainly not the start we wanted in Super Rugby competition but I think it’s important that we man up and continue to fight — it’s a long competition and we’ve got some work to do.”

The result does not quite reflect the highly-competitive nature of the match. Both sides played clever rugby, with pivots Pat Lambie and Demetri Catrakillis looking to put their sides in the right parts of the field.

When opportunities presented themselves, both teams didn’t hesitate to have a crack. The Sharks backline was slightly less starved of possession than in previous weeks and Frans Steyn and JP Pietersen looked a formidable combination.

“I was very happy with the way Frans and JP played. I thought when we got enough ball and did move it we asked questions. I thought Lwazi’s linebreak from that lineout in the first half was well executed and the defence stayed for Frans and JP which opened the hole for us,” Gold said.

While both Springboks played well and gave their side some much needed x-factor in the midfield, Stormers inside centre Damian de Allende proved to be handful.

The burly centre is having a phenomenal season and carried the ball strongly against the Sharks, often broke the advantage line on attack.

“He was fantastic tonight, he ran with purpose, he asked questions, he didn’t concede yards and he committed two or three defenders to the breakdown and he played with a lot of confidence.”

However, De Allende would no doubt give credit to his forwards for providing a strong platform to attack from.

The scrums and lineouts were fiercely contested, with the former seeing the Sharks concede three tightheads in the first half. But it was far from a one-sided affair.

“We gave away three tightheads but they were interesting ones because they were hooking tightheads. There was parity in the scrums; we actually pushed them off the ball when we got our turnover, but credit to them, their scrumming has improved tremendously,” Gold said.

The return of Springbok lock Eben Etzebeth made life difficult for Pieter-Steph du Toit and the Sharks lineout, but Gold believes the last two matches, where the young Springbok has gone against the more experienced Etzebeth and the Bull’s Victor Matfield, will do wonders for his game.

“Games like today are very good experiences for him. You can’t have everything on a platter, just think back a few years to Heyneke’s first two years at the Bulls when Victor, Danie Roussow and Pierre Spies were coming through and they struggled for a few years. That adversity will define you and help you grow.”

While Gold looked for positives, Sharks fans are calling for wins, not close defeats, and considering the number of Springboks now in the mix, those calls are warranted. But what will be catalyst to turn around their poor start to the season?

“Firstly by not panicking and stabbing each other in the back because we’ve lost three rugby games. By sticking together, being honest about the things we’re getting wrong and tweaking those and realising there is a huge expectation on us. Saying that there are 11 Boks in your team doesn’t mean you’re going to win a rugby game. When we play against other teams, they know there are 11 Boks and they raise their game,” Gold said.

The Sharks take on the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein this weekend before they return to face the Chiefs at home in two weeks.

Super Rugby results (round 4)


Brumbies 27 - 15 Force

Chiefs 17 - 20 Highlanders


Blues 10 - 13 Lions

Reds5 - 23Waratahs

Cheetahs 20 - 39 Bulls

Stormers 29 - 13 Sharks.

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