DURBAN – The Sharks’ scrappy 19-13 victory over the Cheetahs was hardly a spectacle but both sets of players should not be judged too harshly given the crazy fact that this game was played in the heat of summer.
In fact, this game was a reminder of what virtually every game at Jonsson Kings Park resembles when the humidity is in town, and teams opt for low-risk tactics that are not always entertaining.
The Cheetahs, in particular, looked all at sea, probably because for the last few years they have been playing in the cold of Europe or in the rarified atmosphere of Bloemfontein. Some of their players looked like they were going to melt…
In those conditions, it was inevitable that the Sharks’ tactics were going to centre on the tactical boots of scrumhalf Sanele Nohamba and especially flyhalf Curwin Bosch, who responded with a commanding performance.
“It was difficult conditions out there and it was a physical contest as you can see by the (narrow and close) scoreline,” coach Sean Everitt said. ‘There are different ways that you can combat humidity. We felt that kicking contestable kicks would be the way to do it.
“Trying to hold the ball in close quarters in high humidity is extremely difficult. If you go back and look at the game we played against the Bulls in February before we went overseas on tour, it was very similar to that. It is extremely difficult to hold on to the ball.”
Everitt said that the team naturally looked to their flyhalf general for direction in such stifling conditions.
“The players looked to Curwin to control the play. In these trying conditions, he did an excellent job and that’s why he got man of the match. His kicking was pinpoint. I don’t want to take anything away from the wings because Werner (Kok) and Yaw (Penxe), as well as Madosh (Tambwe) when he came on, chased really well and put the Cheetahs under a lot of pressure. Curwin is playing with a lot of confidence and when we get our contestable kicks right, we are a difficult team to play against.”
The win took the Sharks to third place on the Super Rugby Unlocked standings and they now have back-to-back wins over the Pumas and Cheetahs following that big loss to the Bulls. The improvement in the forwards has been remarkable, especially the setpiece work.
“It is hats off to the guys,” Everitt said. “They have worked extremely hard and learned harsh lessons from that Bulls game. There is nothing better than knuckling down and working hard at something you are not good at, and then getting rewarded.
“You saw a huge improvement last week against the Pumas and I was so happy that they were able to bring it against the Cheetahs, who offered a different challenge to the Pumas. I am really proud of how the boys have reacted.”
This week, the Sharks play Griquas in Kimberley on Friday night.