DURBAN – Sharks coach Robert du Preez was as relieved as he was pleased after his team had returned to winning ways against the Rebels at Jonsson Kings Park on Saturday.
The Sharks had been under major pressure to bounce back from their drubbing from the Bulls and then had a bye week to contemplate the error of their ways. It would have been disastrous to lose to the Australians, which would have made it three defeats in a row and another home game would have been dropped.
Instead the Sharks took to the pitch with their intentions very clear – it would be win or bust. Their resolve was clear to see and they finished the match as strongly as they started it.
“We needed to get our campaign back on track with a win, it was simple as that,” Du Preez said of the 28-14 victory. “It was a tough week after the loss to the Bulls. We had to dig deep and do some honest introspection.
“You could see at training last week how much the guys wanted to win this game. I am very happy with the response from the players. The effort was outstanding.”
The Sharks started the game strongly, going into a 10-0 lead but then had to deal with some menacing play from the Australian conference leaders. The Sharks were just 16-14 ahead at the break, but then held the Rebels scoreless in the second half thanks to a determined defensive effort.
“There was a 10-minute period after halftime when they came at us strongly. The defence was brilliant,” Du Preez said. “We worked very hard on physicality in defence in training, and it came through in the game. The guys showed great character.”
Du Preez said the message at half time was “to be more assertive in our decision-making and to keep the ball in hand more. The strength of this team is the danger we pose when we keep the ball through the phases.”
The result was two well worked tries and there could have been a third, a brilliant score by Makazole Mapimpi, had Marius Louw not high tackled a Rebel in the build up to the try .Mapimpi dummied through the Rebels defence in his half and then outpaced the defenders to the line for what would have been the try of the weekend. It was a senseless indiscretion from substitute centre Louw because the ball had long gone.
Du Preez had high praise indeed for Mapimpi.
“His work rate was outstanding, he is just top. He is probably the number one wing in the country,” he said.
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