Sharks: ‘No cause for panic’

2009-03-16 00:00

For Sharks assistant coach Grant Bashford the loss to the Reds does not sound alarm bells, although he accepted that the team performed below par against a motivated Reds’ side in Saturday’s Super 14 match in Brisbane and that lessons have been learnt.

“Certainly there are no panic stations,” he said yesterday. “We don’t have to re-invent the wheel, it’s just about getting the basics right.

“There is no excuse, we underperformed and in this competition, regardless of whether teams are first or last on the log, they can beat each other. The Super 14 has a knack of that — the underdogs causing upsets — but we let ourselves down on the weekend and it’s up to us to turn it around on Saturday. I’m very confident we can do that,” he said.

With the Sharks’ loss to the Reds ahead of a demanding game against the Force this Saturday — their last match on tour — Bashford agreed that dropping the coming match would undo what the Sharks achieved in picking up nine out of a possible 10 log points in their first two matches in New Zealand.

“Yes, it would be hugely disappointing if that did happen. The two wins in New Zealand set us up beautifully for an unbeaten tour, and having dropped this one, the match in Perth certainly wouldn’t be a game we would want to lose.

“But we are under no illusions — they are a tough team, they are hurting coming off a loss and a draw and it’s a home game for them. They’ve been away for a while and will be up for it. We lost to them last time there, so the game will be tough. We just have to make sure we are up for it.”

To add further insult to injury — so to speak — is the fact that Ruan Pienaar’s damaged knee has taken to three the number of players the Sharks have lost on tour. Like Jean Deysel and Alistair Hargreaves, Pienaar will return home. Certainly, losing two players from the starting line-up is a major blow to the team.

“It’s a tough tournament, playing back to back weekends without a break [apart from one bye in 14 weeks], and picking up three injuries in three weeks makes it especially hard because we’re on tour,” Bashford said.

“But as a door closes on somebody, an opportunity arises for someone else, and that’s the way we are looking at it. It’s very sad for Ruan, but we are confident that Francois Steyn can do a very good job for us at flyhalf.”

The silver lining on this dark cloud is that the timing could no have been better for a visit from Australian Rugby League legend Andrew “Joey” Johns who spent the day with the Sharks and, in particular, Steyn who will be a key figure against the Force this weekend.

“His visit came at a very good time and having a decision-maker spending time with Francois Steyn and Riaan Swanepoel was great.

“It’s really good to have a different voice out there at this time of the campaign.”

Bashford said that having a different perspective on the game is something the Sharks will always embrace, but the focus is not so much on changing anything but rather reaching their potential.

“I think key is that we haven’t become a bad rugby team overnight.”

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