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Pitiful. There is no other way of describing the Sharks’ non-showing in the first half at Ellis Park at the weekend when they allowed the Lions to get their tails up and dish out 30-odd points before the break, despite the Sharks having been warned all week by their coaching staff that this was an ambush waiting to happen.
Sometimes in sport you can talk all you want, but delivering when the sub-conscious tells you it is in the bag is another thing.
Coach John Plumtree could not agree more.
“We’re disappointed. We let ourselves down and we’ll probably look back at this game for the rest of the campaign as a major setback,” he said with understatement, and you had the feeling he would have liked to have used stronger words. He did, though, give the Lions credit.
“They were excellent in the collision areas. I thought their forwards played very well. They slowed us down at breakdowns and we didn’t deliver the kind of game that we needed to, particularly in the contact areas. That was the major frustration, and at flyhalf, Frederic Michalak wasn’t getting good ball. They set out to slow us down and they achieved that. You have to give them some credit.”
At half-time, the discussion in the Sharks change room was that they could hit back.
“We knew we were capable of scoring tries against them, we just had to hold on to the ball and be patient. Unfortunately, we slipped into some bad habits that had haunted us over the previous four games before we started playing very well. That was the frustrating thing. We’ve all let ourselves down, we’ve missed out on the opportunity to keep up with the top and now we’ll be fighting for a play-off position.”
The coach denied that the physicality from the Stormers game the week before had taken its toll.
“We can hardly go there for an excuse. It was physical for the Stormers, too, and they beat the Bulls!
“We head into the break now with 10 players in the Springbok squad, which is really positive, but it doesn’t take away the hurt of losing to the Lions. But again, I have to give them credit, they played their best game of the season, although they’ll be frustrated that it took a black jersey to fire them up!”