The Sharks have to hit the road again.
In spite of Sean Everitt’s men shooting for a top-four place at the weekend that would have brought a home quarter-final at Kings Park, the Sharks now travel to Pretoria next week to face the Bulls in their last-eight play-off in the United Rugby Championship.
The Sharks’ 21-24 defeat to Ulster at the Kingspan Stadium in Belfast on Friday, coupled with the remainder of the results from the final round-robin fixtures of the URC, means the Durbanites finish the regular season in fifth-place on the log standings.
Jake White’s men bested Ospreys 38-31 in Swansea on Friday to ultimately see them finish fourth, while the Stormers’ 26-21 defeat of Scarlets in Llanelli on Saturday means they claim the maiden South African Shield title and end the season in second-place overall. They will welcome Edinburgh to Cape Town Stadium for their quarter-final.
A slow start
Speaking about the loss, Sharks coach Everitt lamented his side’s slow start to their encounter in Northern Ireland but was pleased with the overall effort from his troops.
“We’re very disappointed with the loss. The boys prepared really well for the game.
“There was a lot of energy on the field, they played their hearts out and left nothing out there — the way they fought back at the end there obviously justifies my comments.
“The first-half wasn’t a great start for us. Defensively at times we weren’t sharp enough so we allowed them to get over the line on two occasions. In saying that we had our opportunities, we played some really good rugby and put ourselves in good positions on the field, but unfortunately we lost the breakdown battle.
“Second-half, different story. The guys played well again, we got good territory, good field position, we held onto the ball and got some really good reward; probably some of the best rugby we’ve played with ball in hand.
Impact from bench players
“Credit must go to our bench, who came on and made a huge impact. And that’s exactly what we needed. Ulster are a big and physical team, which is what we expected, and we needed our full complement to get over the line.
“I think it’s a game that probably got away from us. But big lessons learned. It’s our first time at Ravenhill, not an easy ground to play at in front of the home supporters, but I’m very proud of the guys and the courage that they showed and the way they played this evening.”
With the Champions Cup final taking place this weekend, the URC will resume with the play-offs next week.