DURBAN - Winning requires talent and hard work, but to win three games in eight days takes character and that is what the Sharks have shown in beating Griquas, the Bulls and the Lions to go to the top of the Currie Cup log.
That was the assessment of proud coach Robert du Preez after his team had completed a remarkable second-half comeback against the Lions to complete a successful two-match visit to the Highveld where they won at Lotfus Versfeld and Ellis Park in a matter of four days to go with the home win against Griquas a few days before.
The Sharks now have a bye and will thoroughly enjoy their break after having taken maximum points from the last three games.
But at half-time at Ellis Park, it look liked the mini-tour was going to end in disaster, with the Sharks 31-5 down and having played terrible rugby.
“At half-time, there were no real harsh words spoken,” Du Preez said.
“It was a half where nothing had gone right and it was a case of calming down and starting afresh, and I think that having scored a try after the half-time hooter gave us a lift going into the change rooms.
“I just said to the guys that we have to sort out our set-pieces (which had not been functioning) and to hang onto the ball and build phases,” the coach added.
“And we had a fairytale second half, it does not get much better than scoring 42 points against the Lions in Johannesburg in a second half.”
8 Days, 3 Games, 3 Wins. Tough, but worth it. Massive fight back by the men last night. First W up in Jhb in a long time.
It helped, of course, that the Lions went a man down after 10 minutes of the half when hooker Robbie Coetzee was red-carded for a kick to the face of Jacques Vermeulen, who had just grounded the ball for a try.
Du Preez admitted that it was a game-changing moment.
“Jacques had already scored the try (when the kick went to his eye). On TV it looked bad, it was a kick in the face and possibly won’t go down well (at the disciplinary). It is very tough to play with 14 men, we have seen that this season, and it did change the game,” Du Preez said.
Coetzee was probably more clumsy that anything else as he looked to try and kick the ball away from Vermeulen as he went over the try line, but whatever the case it was hugely costly for the Lions.
Their scrum fell apart after that and it was case of the Sharks getting territory and then going for the scrum, which was so dominant that it resulted in three tries.
“After the card, the message was very clear - get into the Lions 22 and secure scrums. That way we made the extra man count,” Du Preez said.
The Sharks have been on the wrong side of a number of close games at Ellis Park in recent years and Du Preez said the win had given his side a significant lift in self-belief.
“It was fantastic to win here. A lot of the guys had never won at Ellis Park before, even experienced guys like Franco Marais, and veterans like Odwa Ndungane and Keegan Daniel could not recall when they had last won there,” Du Preez said.
“It was also my first win here as a coach. It was a special moment and it has given us a lot of confidence,” Du Preez said. “We have a bye now and have some nice momentum to take into next week’s trip to Western Province.”