Sharks hoping to put ‘growing pains’ behind them

Joey Mongalo. | BackpagePix

Joey Mongalo. | BackpagePix

Published Feb 28, 2024


Mike Greenaway

The fact that most of the Sharks’ United Rugby Championship defeats have been by a few points is confirmation that they are close to clicking, and Saturday’s visit to the Lions could be the occasion.

Joey Mongalo. | BackpagePix

This is the reasoning of Sharks defence coach Joey Mongalo, who insists that context be given to the Shark’s 16th position on the URC log.

“Firstly, I want to make it clear we are concerned to be so low down on the log, we do expect more of ourselves,” he said.

“There is context, though. John Plumtree is effectively the new CEO at a business where he is trying to introduce a whole new way of working. He also has a new exco in terms of the coaches he is working with. He hasn’t worked with any of us before. When you have a new staff and lots of changes you are trying to engineer, that will take time. I can’t imagine any business that, in a scenario like that, will not go through some kind of growing pains.

“There is no overnight fix, but hopefully that analogy can bring some kind of context. It is not an excuse for poor performance, it is just that we do accept it will take time to get to where we want to be.

Most of the Sharks’ nine defeats have been by a few points and Mongalo says this fact gives important context.

“If you take away the losses to Leinster and Munster away, and the Bulls away, and look instead at the rest of the season as a whole, you will note that there are a lot of games where we were within a score of winning,” said Mongalo.

“I am not brushing over the fact we lost those games. But the closeness shows enough evidence that with a bit of luck we might have had different results and hopefully if we take a few more steps towards where we want to be those losses will become wins.

“If you look at the positives from our last defeat to the Stormers, we defended very well in the first 20 minutes. In that opening quarter, we were forced to make 76 tackles to just seven from the Stormers. I also thought that seeing we were 22-7 down at one stage we did really well to get back into the game and be one score away at the end. That fighting spirit is what we want to become synonymous with.

“At the same time, we were also let down in that game by little inaccuracies that have kept tripping us up. On the negative side, letting Evan Roos put in a break from his own 22 that led to a try for them was a soft moment. Two of their three tries came after just two or three rucks and that was soft from us.”

Finally, he laughed off a suggestion that the Sharks had little to play for and were concentrated now on winning the Challenge Cup.

“We are in the rugby business, this is our life, and we know that you are not going to be rated highly if you don’t win things,” he said. “We are very aware of that, hence the desire to win as many games as we can from here on … This is a proud rugby region and a proud province. We always go in wanting to represent the badge as best we can.

“We are in a lowly position on the log at present but we want to see how high we can climb, that is the challenge we have set ourselves. We want to put in a big effort to do that and if we finish the season strongly, it will be good for our confidence for next year.”