New Sharks boss Gary Gold admitted there were no excuses after a Super Rugby debut to forget against the unfancied Cheetahs in Durban on Saturday.
The hosts were outscored and outsmarted as the visitors claimed a 35-29 bonus-point win at King's Park to launch their 2015 season in some style.
"I'm just bitterly disappointed in ourselves and in the performance we failed to deliver," Gold, who took over from Jake White, said afterwards.
"We kept them in the game by errors that we made in the wrong areas of the field and I just saw their confidence growing and adversely affecting us.
"But there's no excuse. We're not the first team to lose the opening game and we're going to have to show some good character to come back."
The Sharks scored two tries through stand-in captain Pat Lambie, who enjoyed a 24-point haul, and Lwazi Mvovo, while the Cheetahs crossed four times – Jean Cook, Francois Venter, Carl Wegner and Boom Prinsloo – to earn a bonus-point.
"It's early days in the competition, but I think we'll get stronger," Gold said.
"It's obviously disappointing, but it's a big wake-up call for us all. I wasn't surprised at all by the way they played, that's the Cheetahs way for the past 10 years."
The Sharks boss did, however, take some positives.
"We had a good chat at half time, we knew what we had to do and I thought we showed some good character in the second half to stay in the fight," Gold said.
The Sharks were also hit with some big disruptions on the day as skipper Bismarck du Plessis had to withdraw injured, while Tendai Mtawarira sustained a serious calf problem during the first half.
"Beast doesn't look good," Gold added.
"It looks like he's torn his calf quite badly.
"We'll know next week. But that's the way it is, we back the squad system and will have to back whoever comes in."
Cheetahs boss Naka Drotske lauded his charges for their stellar defensive display, saying it was key to their win.
"The big difference between us tonight and last year was the work rate on defence," he stated.
"I think the intensity is something we've worked on and that made a big difference."
He also felt the performance of debutant flyhalf Joe Pietersen was crucial.
"We knew if we wanted to beat them we had to have a good kicking plan," Drotske added.
"Joe Pietersen made real difference for us.
"He's really calm and brings a lot of experience. I thought tactically he and Willie le Roux really kicked well and really put them under pressure, especially in the first half.
"The second half we lost some momentum, but the defence pulled us through."