anti-climax at Kings Park Sharks 35-29 defeat to the Cheetahs

There was a profound sense of anti-climax at Kings Park at the weekend when a pre-season that had promised so much for the Sharks translated into a shock 35-29 defeat to the Cheetahs. There had been much talk of an attacking new game based on hitherto unseen levels of intensity, and few anticipated that a rebuilding Cheetahs team would ruin the exhibition.

“We are bitterly disappointed in ourselves, we failed to deliver,” said Sharks Director of Rugby Gary Gold. “But it is not all doom and gloom. In the last quarter of the game there were signs of how we want to play. We want to get into the right areas and then break the opposition down through the phases. We came within a whisker of rescuing the game with some very good rugby in the last ten minutes or so.

“We camped in the Cheetahs 22 and that is the type of pressure we want to exert on the opposition and the style of rugby we want to play,” Gold said. “We want to use the ball and ask questions of the defence rather than grind out wins through a kick-and-chase game.

“We have the players to do it,” Gold enthused. “We will get stronger, it is early days in the competition and this was a big wake-up call for us all. Yes, I am very upset we lost, I am disappointed for the players because I know how hard they worked, and it is about them, but I know we will get this right.”

The Sharks were their own worst enemies. They repeatedly undid good work with inexcusable errors, and the intensity they were trying to build fizzled out. And the Cheethas fed off the charity and grew in confidence.

“Despite that poor first half, at half time we felt confident that we could turn it around,” Gold said. “And we showed some good character in the second half to stay in the fight. At one stage, the way the penalty count was going, I thought they were going to run away with it at 35-22. But we fought back (with a Lwazi Mvovo try) and then, had Marcell Coetzee’s try been allowed (by the TMO, one minute from time), we would have won. I am proud of the character the guys showed to fight back and almost salvage the result, but unhappy with the silly, basic errors that kept the Cheetahs in the game.”

It did not help the Sharks when captain Bismarck du Plessis withdrew from the match during the warm-up.

“Bismarck was struggling on Thursday and we wanted to give him as long as possible to come right,” Gold explained. “He has something wrong with his shoulder and thought he could push through. He probably could have if we had only a few games left of the season. It is a small tear that can heal quite quickly or deteriorate. It was a calculated risk not to play him, and with hindsight it could be argued that it back-fired because we lost, but if he had played, we might have lost him for six weeks. And now he could be back for this week’s Lions game (at Kings Park on Saturday.)”

The news is hardly as encouraging for Du Plessis’ Sharks and Springbok front-row team-mate, Tendai Mtawarira. Gold said The Beast has torn a calf muscle and is unlikely to play again in this competition.

Gold will welcome former Springbok No 8 Ryan Kankowski back from Japan today but must wait a week before one of Frans Steyn and JP Pietersen return (their Japanese clubs meet in a knock-out game this week), but in a fortnight’s time both should be back in the Shark Tank.

By Mike Greenaway

ENDS

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About Martin Myers
Music Supervisor / Artist and Talent Manager / Publicist / Music Exchange Founder / Owner Triple M Entertainment

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