Sharks’ poor discipline cost them

2012-03-05 00:00

IT was their poor discipline, rather than any lack of brawn, which cost a committed and brave Sharks side victory in their Super Rugby game against the Stormers in Cape Town on Saturday night.

The Newlands crowd, and most of the critics, expected the Stormers to out-muscle the Sharks and fashion a decisive win. But the Sharks took the contest to the wire before a last-minute penalty, booted from the touchline by composed replacement flyhalf Peter Grant, edged the Stormers to a 15-12 win.

Sharks coach John Plumtree was understandably disappointed that his team had lost a second successive tight game.

“It was a very good effort but I’m disappointed we did not prevail.”

And what of the second-half penalty count (9-1 in the second half according to Reuters) and a yellow card for lock Ross Skeate by referee Mark Lawrence?

“That card and the penalties against us in the second half cost us. We will have to look at them.”

Plumtree did add that a number of the referee’s calls were “a bit touch and go,” adding that interpretation on the night was an obvious factor.

Certainly the Sharks were not amused at the inconsistency of Lawrence’s refereeing as his frequent warnings to the Stormers at breakdowns in the first half had not led to a yellow card as it did later when Skeate was banished.

Two penalties awarded against hooker Bismarck du Plessis for playing the ball at the ruck also seemed questionable as he ripped the ball from an opponent while in a maul.

After winning the contest for position and possession in the first half, but only grabbing a three-point lead (9-6), the Sharks struggled in the second. Penalties not only finally separated the teams on the scoreboard, but also helped to trap the Sharks in their own territory for most of the second half and they were never in a position to launch any attacks.

Stormers’ coach Allister Coetzee was understandably delighted to emerge with the four points, but paid warm tribute to the efforts of the Sharks.

“Whether you regard it as a case of getting out of jail or not, it was a fantastic win for us,” he told the media.

“The Sharks took us to a dark place on the field and I’m very pleased we responded.

“Don’t underestimate any Sharks side. They’re a quality side and they pitched here. They played really well. Two years ago we’d have lost this game. The Sharks threw the kitchen sink at us.”

“It was a typical South African derby game which was always going to be close.”

Coetzee paid tribute to Grant and the young players in the Stormers’ outfit.

Coetzee said the Sharks had prepared astutely, analysed the Stormers and defended well by forcing them to play across the field.

The Stormers coach said that the strong scrummaging (and a heel against the head) of the 20-year-old loosehead Steven Kitshoff against Springbok prop Jannie du Plessis in the closing minutes had been crucial.

Stormers captain Jean de Villiers admitted his team had suffered in the first half.

“The message at half-time was that we were only three points behind after the Sharks had created most of the play; so we knew we could certainly find a way back.”

Individually, the Sharks emerged with credit and the light pack stood up strongly at the breakdown, in the lineout and in containing the Stormers’ rolling maul.

Plumtree paid tribute to young Marcell Coetzee on the flank.

“Marcell was excellent for us. He was probably the best loose forward on the field. It’s fantastic for South African rugby that there are still such good youngsters coming through in these positions,” Plumtree said.

Plumtree was asked, provocatively, how he would turn the season around (after two games in 16).

“That’s easy,” he responded bluntly. “We’ve just got to win.”

And, incidentally, Plumtree had one very good reason for biting his tongue when asked about the officiating at Newlands — the very same Mark Lawrence will again be in charge when the Sharks face the Lions at King’s Park on Saturday evening.

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