Sharks were ‘flat’

2014-06-02 00:00

THEIR director of rugby Jake White described the performance as “flat” and the Sharks boss had every reason to be frustrated by the way the Super Rugby leaders sloppily surrendered their position of strength at the top of the competition standings on Saturday.

The Durban side showed some fight at stages during their 21-19 loss to the Stormers, but there was just not enough when it mattered most.

Little errors also played their role and White had no doubt that fatigue played a major role — it was an eighth straight game and came on the back of a three-day Springbok training camp — after their excellent tour to Australasia where they won three out of four games.

“All the hard work we put in on tour, we dropped that tonight,” White stated afterwards. “But I’ve said it many times and I’ll say it again, this is a tough competition to win.”

The result, which came when Jaco Taute landed a final-minute drop-goal, means that instead of taking a five-point lead into the June international break, they will only take a slender two-point margin and could even find themselves bumped down to third by the time they next take to the field on July 5.

A disappointing position considering the form they were in and the emphasis placed on topping the overall table, which brings with it a home semi-final and final.

“We were flat and I am the first to admit it,” White said.

They started out well by moving to 6-0 thanks to two Frans Steyn penalties, the second leading to Nizaam Carr being sent to the sin bin for a high tackle on Cobus Reinach.

But it was almost as if they failed to find the next gear from there.

Stormers flyhalf Kurt Coleman landed two penalties of his own, while a strong Juan de Jongh run ended with Bismarck du Plessis doing well to turn over possession following the formation of a ruck.

Sharks number 10 Steyn and Coleman again exchanged penalty kicks, before a moment of magic from S’bura Sithole, who made the Springbok squad that was announced later on Saturday, stepped inside two defenders to create space and scrumhalf Reinach picked up the pieces for a third try in as many games.

That came on the stroke of half time as the Sharks lead 16-9.

Coleman and Steyn once again cancelled out penalties by each other, before flyhalf Demetri Catrakilis kicked two more penalties to leave the gap at a single point.

That second penalty also led to Marcell Coetzee’s sin-binning, and even though the Sharks were down a man, they had two penalties squandered by Steyn, the second bouncing off the cross bar, in and then out of the arms of Tim Swiel with the try-line gaping.

And with time up, and referee Jaco Peyper playing a penalty advantage, Taute had nothing to lose and kicked over.

White added: “The margins are so small … could this kick have gone over or could Tim Swiel could have caught the ball and gone over, that’s how close the margins are.

“We carried it in the beginning of the game and we never got a return. There was a bit of space behind, but we probably didn’t kick as well as we should have.

“When we kicked, we kicked straight down the field and probably gave Taute too much time. Historically they’re a team really difficult to break down and tonight was no different.

“But we’ll keep fighting. If you asked me before we started the campaign if we win the South African Conference, we go into a four-week break and you got an opportunity still to come to finish in the top three, there’s not many people who would have not taken that.”

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