Sharks want to right their wrongs

Date published: March 22 2016

The Sharks will be looking to right the humiliating wrongs of their Round Four outing against the Bulls when they host the Crusaders on Saturday.

After an impressive win against the Stormers at Newlands, who have gone on to beat the in-form team of the 2016 tournament, the Brumbies, Gary Gold's side left Pretoria with a draw when a win was on the table.

Joe Pietersen's shocking missed penalty, which would have secured the Sharks their fourth win in as many games, ultimately cost them victory, but it was also their poor start and countless missed opportunities which saw the game ending in a draw.

“You can’t blame the defeat just on Joe for that last kick,” Sharks director of rugby Gary Gold told Supersport.
"He nailed some beauties earlier in the match and if he’d missed those, that final penalty kick would have been irrelevant. We had enough opportunities to score tries and secure the spoils, so it is crazy to blame one player for a missed penalty.

"We are very frustrated because it was a game we could have and should have won, and it was down to our own errors and the lack of intensity in the early part of the game that we didn’t.”

Following the Brumbies' defeat in Cape Town on Saturday, the Sharks are the only unbeaten team in the competition and the Durban-based franchise are in a much better condition than last year when they conceded 50 points to a Crusaders side that were down to 12 men at one stage.

“It is true that if you had offered us this position pre-season, we would have jumped at it,” added Gold.

“But we set ourselves high standards and we are disappointed with how we played against the Bulls. It is nice to have picked up points in three away games to go with the home win against the Jaguares, but being unbeaten is not just about us.

"It is also about the other teams and their affairs. I suppose the positive is that we are not playing our best rugby and are still unbeaten, but we know we have to work a lot harder to beat a team like the Crusaders.”

The Kings Park fixture will be the Sharks' first contest with a New Zealand side this year, and assistant coach Sean Everitt believes the unpleasant memories that some of the players have from last year's experience with the Crusaders will have a galvanising effect.

“There are a lot of guys still in our squad who were involved in that game last year and we cannot deny that the memory of how it hurt us still lingers,” he explained.

“Obviously we would like to turn the tide this time around but it probably won’t happen if we play badly two weeks in a row. You could see the body language of the players in the change room after the final whistle at Loftus.

"The players knew they had let themselves down. No-one was content with a draw. There were just too many unforced errors, notably handling mistakes and inaccurate (field) kicking, and our attacking breakdown just wasn’t good enough.”

Gold added that the mistakes they made against the Bulls will be punished by the seven-time champions.

“When we do things well, we look good," he said.

"But we can’t be exiting badly with our kicks and making other mistakes to give the opposition free momentum.” 

The Sharks boast a much-improved defensive system to the one they had last year, but assistant coach Sean Everitt knows the Crusaders will bring all sorts of challenges to Durban.

“One thing is certain, we are going to have to play much better against them than we did against the Bulls in order to have a chance of beating them,” reiterated Everitt.

“They are a well-disciplined team and very well-structured. We saw from how well Canterbury did in the ITM Cup that they have a lot of depth and youngsters coming through.

"They have obviously lost some superstars but the backbone of their side remains very experienced, with Kieran Read captaining them and being supported by the likes of Sam Whitelock, and with the potent threat of Nemani Nadolo at the back.”