DURBAN – The Sharks scrambled over the line against the Lions on Friday night but they will know that they won’t be as lucky in their next match, against the Bulls, should their performance be so error-strewn.
The Sharks have a bye in next week’s second round of Super Rugby Unlocked before journeying to Loftus Versfeld, and coach Sean Everitt will be cracking the whip on the training pitch between now and then.
It was the set piece that will mostly concern the coach, and watching the set scrums and line-outs creak might have given him déjà vu considering the Sharks had exactly the same issues at the start of Super Rugby in February before fixing it and going from strength to strength.
“Our set piece struggled, no secret about that,” Everitt said after the 19-16 victory. “But that is also what won us the game at the end (when the Sharks’ scrum forced a penalty), so I suppose we can’t be too harsh. We weren’t happy with our line-out, it is something we need to work on.
“We must remember that these guys have only played 40 minutes of rugby together (against the Bulls at Superfan Saturday) so it was never going to be a complete performance, if you are going to be real about it. Also, we have a young hooker (Dylan Richardson) who is going through a transition from loose forward, so those mistakes will happen. We have to be patient. He is a great rugby player and in my opinion is a future Springbok.”
“There is a lot of work to do,” Everitt admitted. “Fortunately, we have survived the first round and have a bye next week. It will be a week of really hard work to prepare to face the Bulls at Loftus in two weeks’ time.”
The Sharks started the match brightly and played some excellent rugby until the Lions began fighting their way into the match from around the half hour mark.
“We asked the players for a fast start,” Everitt explained. “It was our theme for the week, especially after the poor start we had against the Bulls, so we are happy with the way we began. We probably should have scored a few more tries in those opening 20 minutes when we were dominant, but it wasn’t the case.
“From there, we made quite a few mistakes, our discipline let us down and it was pretty much us contributing to our own demise, really.”
The Lions finished the second half camped on the Sharks’ tryline and the final score-line might have looked different had the home team’s excellent defence in that period failed. They stood firm and the half ended with flank James Venter winning a vital breakdown penalty.
“That penalty was massive for us,” Everitt admitted. “We were under the pump. If we had gone into the change room with the scores closer (it was 13-3 at the break), it might have been a bit different coming out. It is always an energy-giver. The guys came into the change room really pumped up after that. You could see that from the reaction when they got that turnover.
“There were a couple of them tonight. Dylan (Richardson) got in on the ball a couple of times. This is a team that lives for turnovers. It is something we work really hard on. To see us get that reward before half time was a massive boost.”