Durban - Full credit to the well-drilled Pumas for turning a first-round defeat to the Sharks in Mbombela into a famous win in Durban on Friday evening.
That was the sentiment of gracious Sharks coach Etienne Fynn after his side had floundered 20-10 at Hollywoodbets Kings Park after having won 24-10 at the Mbombela Stadium on March 4.
In that first-round win, it was the territory game of the Sharks that triumphed over the high-tempo running strategy of the Pumas but in this latest fixture, a Pumas team so well coached by veteran Jimmy Stonehouse did not allow the Sharks to play their power game which is based essentially on tactical kicking and forward mauls.
But the Sharks did not help themselves by being sloppy in their execution, and Fynn was the first to admit this.
“We were poor this evening and the Pumas totally deserved the win, we did not,” the former Sharks prop said.
“We have to work on all aspects of our game, including sticking to the game plan and, more importantly, when we get an opportunity to score we must take it. Conversely, when they get into our half we have to close them down.
“So congratulations to the Pumas and as a group we have to own this loss and move forward positively because we have Free State next Saturday (in Bloemfontein) and we know how good a team they are,” Fynn added.
The Sharks still have plenty to play for in the Currie Cup and are very much in the running for the playoffs but they have to drastically improve if they hope to beat a Cheetahs side that beat the Sharks in Durban a month ago.
“The season is far from over,” Fynn said. “After a long break, I expected some rustiness but obviously not that extent of rustiness.
“Our sharpness was lacking and we look forward to correcting our mistakes and showing all of our supporters a very different performance next Saturday.
“Going back to the drawing board is such a cliché but any rugby plan that works is usually a simple one — it is about why we did not execute the plan, find the reasons for it, and fix it,” the coach concluded.