Durban – Sharks director of rugby Jake White praised his side for overcoming several personal changes, as well as the Queensland Reds, in Saturday's Super Rugby clash at King's Park in Durban.
The Sharks endured a spell of Reds' pressure in the second half, to eventually prevail 35-20, and White said he was delighted, considering the circumstances.
“This was not a normal week. With the emotional backlog in that group, to come back and beat the Reds, who have a squad full of Wallabies, and have won this competition, I am very happy,” White said.
White admitted that his side had again “stopped playing” during the second half, which led to a Reds' revival.
“We started getting ahead of ourselves, when we had played solid rugby in the first half. When you give them loose balls like that, you make life difficult,” White said.
The Sharks had lost promising youngsters Paul Jordaan and Pieter-Steph du Toit ahead of the match, and White admitted that those were big setbacks for the squad.
“I feel for them. Pieter-Steph du Toit is now one of the best players in the world,” White said.
“But every team has to face up to these challenges, and John Smit has always told me that this group of players can adapt to change.”
The Reds, who at one stage had pulled to within eight points of the Sharks, rued some of the calls made by referee Lourens van der Merwe.
Second half substitute Beau Robinson was carded for infringing at the breakdown in the 67th minute, which coach Richard Graham said was a crucial point in the game.
“At that point, we still had an opportunity. We finished strongly, so it would probably have come down to how we managed the last 13 minutes,” Graham said.
“I don't think the breakdown was refereed very well, so I'm frustrated in that sense,” he added.
Reds captain James Horwill spent several instances speaking to Van der Merwe.
“There were certain things that we didn't get the rub of the green, but that's rugby sometimes,” Horwill said.
Both Graham and Horwill lamented the number of clear chances that the Reds let slip, in particular Mike Harris dropping the ball on the tryline, shortly before half-time.
“There were plenty of opportunities either side of half-time to get closer, and we just didn't take them,” Horwill said.
“Those guys know themselves they missed opportunities, so I don't need to say anything to them,” Graham added, looking ahead to their next clash against the Lions.
“Our character, when we were down 25-6, was displayed when we came back to 28-20. But our accuracy has got to be better.
“Their spirit has really impressed me, and they continue to fight. We know that we will face something similar to what Frans Steyn did, punishing us from anywhere inside 55 metres.”
White believes the Sharks will have a massive challenge at Loftus Versfeld, when they face the Bulls next week, but backed his players.
“It's massive. But it can be done. This group of players has a good record there, and we have some momentum now.” – Sapa