Sharks 'got energy' from playing in front of Munster fans, says speedster Penxe

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Sharks flyhalf Curwin Bosch embraces teammate Yaw Penxe.
Sharks flyhalf Curwin Bosch embraces teammate Yaw Penxe.
(Steve Haag/Gallo Images)
  • Sharks wing Yaw Penxe said they were energised by playing in front of fans for the first time since mid-March 2020 in their loss to Munster at Thomond Park in Limerick last weekend.
  • Nearly 20 000 fans witnessed the dawn of a new north versus south provincial international rugby era when the home side beat the Sharks 42-17.
  • Sharks defence coach John McFarland also noted the marked differences in the old Super Rugby and new United Rugby Championship.

Although they began the United Rugby Championship (URC) in defeat to Munster, the Sharks got a taste of the good old days by playing in front of the near-capacity Thomond Park in Limerick last weekend.

Nearly 20 000 fans witnessed the dawn of a new north versus south provincial international rugby era when the home side beat the Sharks 42-17 last Saturday.

But Sharks wing Yaw Penxe said the South Africans felt energised by being in an arena graced by fan attendance - something the Sharks had not experienced since mid-March 2020.

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"It was honestly amazing, even though it wasn't our supporters," said Penxe.

"I think I speak for everyone when I say it's something we missed. It gives us a lot of energy, so it was just lovely to be out there in front of a crowd again.

"Hopefully, we'll have them back at home as well. There's a bit of a bio-bubble, but we can walk around, which helps us a lot.

"We don't get much cabin fever."

Sharks defence coach John McFarland said having fans at the ground also affected both sides and the referee Craig Evans.

It was an occasion to savour for all, the mark of sport's slow but steady exit from Covid lockdown imprisonment and into a freer world filled with in-stadium live game experiences.

"It was their (Munster's) first time playing in front of a crowd for nearly 19 months, and it made a big difference for everybody - the referee and our players - because we've all been in this big bubble of silence," said McFarland.

"In Europe, it's getting back to normal now. If you're vaccinated, a lot of people aren't in masks, but we've got to be very careful as a group.

"You've got to be really careful and mindful of everything because it could spread through the group if one person gets it."

The URC start proved difficult for three of SA's four franchises, including the Sharks.

The Lions kicked matters off with victory over Italian side Zebre on Friday night, but that was as good as it got as the Stormers and the Bulls fell to European opposition.

McFarland said there was a huge difference between the URC and Super Rugby, primarily due to the countries' less stringent time zone differences.

"There's a heck of a difference. It's in really how you feel," he said.

"With the time zone differences from Super Rugby; here, it's easy to change to the time zones.

"We had quite a long journey here, and that was the only [snag]. If we were flying directly here, then it would have been easier.

"We were playing one of the best teams in Europe, who are coached by a good friend (Johann van Graan). They played very well on their day.

"In playing style, it wasn't that much different. If you're letting teams into your 22 through penalties and stuff, then the result is the same.

"They will maul you and coming at you around the corner. The big thing we've got to work on is our discipline.

"The penalty count was 17-6, which is a huge [disadvantage]. They had 12 entries into our 22, all of which came from penalties."

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