- Lukhanyo Am could not look past failures in key areas, handling and breakdown, that undermined the Sharks’ efforts against the Cheetahs.
- The Sharks skipper said they had a fair number of attacking opportunities that they didn’t take.
- Brent Janse van Rensburg refused to use Covid-19 disruptions as an excuse for their second consecutive poor performance.
Sharks captain Lukhanyo Am tried to keep a positive outlook following his men’s 37-10 loss to the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Sunday.
However, the Springbok outside centre could not look past failures in key areas of the game, such as handling errors and breakdown bluntness, that undermined their efforts under the Free State sun.
The Sharks failed to gather the opening kick-off and a try conceded half-a-minute into the match, an error upon which Carl Wegner pounced, which set the tone for the rest of the game.
Although they crossed the white line not long after, through a Yaw Penxe intercept, they scarcely put the hosts under the requisite pressure to take the crucial Currie Cup log points.
"They put us under scoreboard pressure, which made us try to chase the game and force things," said Am.
"That’s when we kind of got rattled. It’s hard forcing things and the game just didn’t go our way … whether it was a penalty at the breakdown or a knock on.
"Unfortunately, that happened right through to the last minutes of the game.
"It was one of those games where the bounce of the ball didn’t go our way."
Tellingly, even as the game was slipping away, there wasn’t much that their reinforcements did to change the outlook.
If anything, the Cheetahs grew stronger on defence and deadlier going forward, especially after Rhyno Smith’s introduction.
Frans Steyn's accurate and massive boot also had a major say, as the World Cup-winner kept up the jabs aimed at keeping the Sharks at bay.
The Sharks couldn’t even capitalise on a second half period where the Cheetahs had both Rosko Specman and Boan Venter in the sin bin after the interval.
"We had a lot of attacking opportunities," Am said.
"Whenever we kept ball in hand, we had momentum and made line-breaks.
"It’s just that we didn’t capitalise on the opportunities we had. Sometimes, they did make good defensive reads but, overall, we were happy with our attack.
"They did a good job slowing our ball down in the breakdowns."
Covid-19 disruptions are 'no excuse'
Sharks assistant coach Brent Janse van Rensburg refused to use Covid-19 disruptions on the Durbanites as an excuse for their second consecutive poor performance, after their 27-12 defeat to the Lions a week prior.
Head coach Sean Everitt couldn’t travel to Bloemfontein either due to "Covid-19 protocols", while the Sharks had to announce their team to face the Cheetahs as late as on Christmas Day because of the uncertainty caused by the outbreak.
To add insult, Bok wing Sbu Nkosi suffered a contusion to his knee/thigh region in Thursday’s training session, which forced him out of Sunday’s team.
"It’s logical for all to deduce that Covid disruptions aren’t ideal," said Janse van Rensburg.
"It affects your training programme in the week and it affects the availability of players.
"You win competitions and make playoffs with squads; you don’t do that with just 23 players.
"The positive in this is that it’s given other players opportunities to play. It’s a chance for us to test the depth of the squad, to see what we have in the group [but] those players need to step up and execute.
"It doesn’t help to make excuses. We don’t have an excuses mentality.
"We embrace the challenges as they come. How you apply your mind to those challenges will determine how you come out on the other end.
"We just weren’t good enough today (Sunday)."