Attack is in the Sharks’ DNA, says Sean Everitt
CAPE TOWN - Not too many South African teams opt to play a ball-in-hand, all-out attacking game when the pitch has been saturated by rain.
But the current Sharks team is not any old SA rugby side. Their modern revolution off the field is now being matched on it by the players, and Friday night’s 45-12 rout of the Bulls was the best possible advertisement of the new winds that are blowing out of Jonsson Kings Park.
After a rather turgid style of play last season – with an over-reliance on kicking – the Sharks are finally going back to their roots in many respects, something coach Sean Everitt calls their “DNA”.
Yes, it was only a preparation match for the Rainbow Cup on Friday night – and the Bulls team was far from a strong combination – the attacking intent shown by the Sharks in possession was a joy to watch.
They tried to speed up play at almost every opportunity. Scrumhalf Jaden Hendrikse and flyhalf Boeta Chamberlain marshalled the troops smoothly with their passing and kicking games, and strike-runners such as Sbu Nkosi and Lukhanyo Am – and even front-rowers Ox Nche, Fez Mbatha and Thomas du Toit – carried the ball with great ferocity.
“When you get the opportunities, you’ve got to grab them. There were a lot of turnovers and counter opportunities. So, we want to encourage the guys to play on it because it’s de-structured defence,” Everitt explained afterwards.
So, we had those opportunities tonight, we didn’t really move away from the way we played. We had a lot of disruptions during the Super
Rugby Unlocked with injuries and everything. And sometimes, with all the changes that you make from week to week, you got to keep the plan very, very simple and maybe somewhat conservative, if you want to win trophies.
“But at the same time, we do have a flexible game plan. We can adjust it according to the conditions that present themselves, and the different defences.
“So yes, we want to attack – you know, that’s our identity. It’s our DNA and our DNA shifts towards more transitional rugby. And that is from attack to defence and defence to attack.
“So, I think that’s where our strengths lie, and the guys really enjoy it. So, to be able to do that, we have to create those skill areas to be able to play off that ball, and I think the guys defended really, really well at times and put the Bulls under immense pressure.”
Springbok captain Siya Kolisi had a reasonably busy outing on his Sharks debut, with a few strong carries and ruck cleans, although he missed some tackles that led to the two Bulls tries.
But having had virtually no rugby in 2020, where he was affected by injuries and Covid-19, it was a solid first game back.
“We are very happy with Siya. His role at number six at Western Province was slightly different to what he has here. The six role here at the Sharks, your work-rate has got to be up there; you’re playing a little bit more closer to the ball,” Everitt said.
“So, he’s adjusting, and I thought he did exceptionally well for the first 40. He’s a fantastic rugby player, and we’re happy with his contributions.”
The Sharks are next in action in the Rainbow Cup, where they will face the Stormers at the Cape Town Stadium on April 24.