Cape Town — While taking the ball through 15 phases may look “beautiful”, the Sharks need to show some aggression on attack to finish off opportunities if they want to be successful in the Currie Cup.
That was the view of head coach Joey Mongalo after the Durban side enjoyed some impressive passages of play, but still lost 24-20 to the Blue Bulls at Kings Park on Friday.
While Jake White’s Bulls side ran up a 19-3 halftime lead, it was the Sharks who constructed neat multi-phase moves, only to knock the ball on, be turned over on the ground or choose the wrong option in the Bulls 22.
They won the possession and territory battles by 60 percent to 40, yet it was the visitors who were more incisive on attack, scoring four tries to grab a bonus-point win to just the two of the Sharks.
“In tight games like this between two big provinces, if you get the opportunities, you’ve got to finish them. In the first 15 minutes, we camped on the Bulls 22 and they defended well, so we walked away there with not enough points,” Mongalo said.
“We had a chance to score at the end and we couldn’t get that right as well. That’s been kind of a theme for us — we create a lot of opportunities, and now we’ve got to find a way to convert those opportunities into points.
“Sometimes it’s just about a guy asking for the ball and saying ‘I will score’. Sometimes it’s a desire thing — it’s one guy saying ‘Forget systems and those things: give me the ball and I’ll just go and score’.
“Maybe myself as a coach, I need to give them more freedom and encouragement to take the risks and back themselves to score when they get into those situations. So, I think I can wear some of the blame for why we don’t convert when we get close to the 22 and tryline.
“I would hate for it to be that (fear of failure). One of my coaching philosophies is about simplicity, clarity and relationships, so if they’re scared, then I’m doing something that’s against the core of what I feel as a coach.
“There should never be fear — players should play with freedom. So, I really hope it’s not that… maybe it’s between the simplifying and clarifying that I need to get right, more than the fear.
“JP Pietersen is our attack and backs coach, so he does a lot of work in getting us into shape and working hard off the ball — so he must get the compliment for that. Sometimes you don’t score the points that you should, but you still see a system.
“To be able to keep the ball for 15 phases says a lot about your organisation and your coaching, so I must compliment JP there.
“We’ve just got to find a way to get over the tryline. Fifteen phases can look beautiful, but if it doesn’t convert into three, five or seven points, then we may as well have scored after one or kick it away after five. Conversion is a big thing for this team going forward.”
The Sharks are next in action against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Friday (2.30pm kickoff), and Mongalo hopes to improve his area of speciality, the defence, as well.
“As a defence coach, you never go home and sleep well if you concede four tries — that is not a norm or standard, or something I accept or that this team should accept,” he said.
“I think we conceded four tries over the last three games at home, and we conceded four today. That’s something I need to look at myself for and fix.
“My biggest take from this game is that at 19-3 down, to come back against a good Bulls side with four Springboks and seven Junior Springboks and be within a score and one breakdown of winning the game says a lot about the character of the team.
“I’m proud of these guys for the way they came back, although we mustn’t normalise losing. I said in the change-room now that we mustn’t say ‘Oh, we lost to the Bulls by four points’.”
Sharks 20 – Tries: Phikolomzi Sobahle, Zee Mkhabela. Conversions: Fred Zeilinga (1), Lionel Cronjé (1). Penalties: Zeilinga (2).
Blue Bulls 24 – Tries: Sibongile Novuka (3), Jan-Hendrik Wessels. Conversions: Morné Steyn (2).