DURBAN – The Sharks have long prided themselves on being a defence minded team, putting their efforts into being physical, dominating the tackle and collision areas, and putting the opposition under immense pressure.
However, it seems as if that reputation may have cost them when they faced a Stormers side who were not going to match fire with fire in the clash at Kings Park. Indeed, it was a physical encounter, and the Stormers were more than a match for the Sharks, but, it was their kicking game that was identified as a key area that got around the Sharks’ defence.
Sharks assistant coach Braam van Straten dissected the Sharks’ shortcomings, putting a lot of praise on the Stormers’ kicking game which caught the men from Durban off guard.
“Lessons learned, nice and early in the competition of what happens when we become dominant in defence, people will try and find ways to get in behind us. If you look at the Stormers, they kicked 33 times, and that is a lot, that is numbers you see in the Northern hemisphere,” the former Bok flyhalf said.
“We realised that we were not on top of our game, we did defend well, but we got into trouble by not handling their kicking game very well and we made some judgement errors in the main drivers of where we want to go and that is the senior players,” he added.
The Sharks also clearly were suffering with a bit of frustration, and that boiling over again made things tougher for them. Discipline was pointed at directly post-match from coach Rob du Preez, and Van Straten went deeper into its effect.
“If you look at our discipline, it was not good enough, the yellow cards in the first half, and that puts the pack under pressure, not just for pack against pack, but also for work rate. Suddenly, you are defending with 14 men for 20 minutes.”
There were a few disruptions to go along with the yellow cards, including youngster Pepsi Buthelezi getting a lot more time than what would have been planned, but there were also some substitutions which could have been questioned.
That being said, Van Straten seemed to be of the opinion that the swap of Ruan Botha for Gideon Koegelenberg, as one example, was for the right reasons at the right time.
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“It goes with the flow, the changes are made by the coaches to bring some energy back into the game, and if you look at how well we played in the second part we didn’t get the rewards we wanted, but there was a step up in energy and how the boys went about it.
“Gideon made a really good impact, he is physical and abrasive, ball in hand and on defence. So sometimes you want to question the changes, but that lies with the head coach to make those calls,” Van Straten added.
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