‘Sharks lacked accuracy’

2013-05-27 00:00

THE Sharks played the perfect hosts at King’s Park on Saturday as they generously dished out a critical Super Rugby win to the conference-leading Bulls.

No one could fault the brave and willing Sharks for their massive effort and they did enough hard work to have won this match by some distance.

But they were also error-prone and inaccurate and they made a right hash of a simple overlap situation in the closing minutes which would have brought a deserved victory.

Bulls captain Pierre Spies said his team had been “lucky in a very tight game which could have gone either way”.

The Bulls were also fortunate — at least in the eyes of the citing commissioner — to finish the game with all 15 of their players. The commissioner yesterday cited Bjorn Basson for a tip tackle on Pat Lambie in the opening minutes of the second half. While referee Jonathan Kaplan sent the Bulls wing to the cooler for 10 minutes, the commissioner believes he should have been red-carded.

The commissioner has also issued Bulls lock Flip van der Merwe with an off-field yellow card for stamping on Sharks captain Keegan Daniel at a maul after 22 minutes.

Kaplan instead penalised Daniel for going off-side at the maul and Bulls flyhalf Morné Steyn kicked his second penalty.

Daniel said later that the Sharks lost “because we did not turn pressure into points”.

Unfortunately, the Sharks number eight was guilty of the most glaring error in the closing moments as he ran into a tackle 20 metres out when a simple pass to Riaan Viljoen outside him, and unmarked, would have brought the winning try.

“Yeah, it was a missed opportunity but there were others,” Sharks coach John Plumtree said of the late near-miss. “We were just not accurate enough on the night.”

Daniel, under pressure, desperately tried to make things happen all night, but everything he touched turned to dust and, in the opening half-an-hour alone, he handed Steyn three kickable penalties.

Plumtree praised the effort of his players. “I’m really proud of the way the guys have stood up in adversity,” adding that injuries had decimated his backline.

“We have just never had the same backline. It’s been a tough campaign for everyone, the players, the coaching staff and the supporters.

But I’m not here to make excuses. We could and should have still won this match.”

The heavy dew on an otherwise perfect evening ruined the contest as a spectacle with the players of both sides making far too many handling errors.

Plumtree said that the Bulls had not played much rugby on the night.

“The only time they stressed us was at the lineout and with their high kicks. We knew if we could cope with them in those areas we could put them under pressure as we did in the second half.

“We had spent time working on ways to combat their lineout, but we did not execute our plan properly. And that was disappointing, giving them three soft penalties from their lineout drive.”

The third settled the contest when prop Beast Mtawarira played a Bulls’ lineout jumper in the air a minute after the Sharks had taken the late lead with the only try of the night.

“The Bulls squeeze you to death. We were stronger in the scrums, they were superior in the lineouts, so they were happy to play a kicking game,” said Plumtree.

Frans Ludeke, the Bulls coach, said the game had been “typical Test rugby”. “There was a heavy emphasis on the set pieces and playing for territory.”

Bulls captain Pierre Spies praised the Bulls for adapting their game plan because of the slippery ball.

“We started trying to attack, but then decided to play it tighter and our kicking game worked well.”

Ludeke, not for the first time, praised the calmness of Steyn, who booted the late penalty to win the game and outplayed an uncharacteristically ragged Pat Lambie on the night.

“Morné has an amazing work ethic,” said Ludeke, “and it pays off in big moments like this when he takes a pressure kick to win a crucial game.”

Plumtree said the Sharks players were hurting.

“Accuracy was a problem on the night, but they tried their hardest. It is a great pity that we couldn’t nail down the win but I’m certainly not going to kick them when they are down.”

The Sharks have a bye this weekend followed by the three-week break for the international season.

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