CAPE TOWN - Sean Everitt praised his Sharks side for their willingness to play attacking rugby in slippery conditions in their 45-12 victory over a disjointed Bulls outfit at Kings Park on Friday night.
Despite heavy rain having left puddles of water on the field – which was reminiscent of the 1995 Rugby World Cup semi-final between the Springboks and France – the Sharks continued to push the envelope on attack and were rewarded with seven tries for their endeavour.
While some of those came from lineout mauls, the best of the lot was off a counter-attacking move where Bok wing Sbu Nkosi danced down the right-hand touchline, before getting involved again at the end to delay the pass and put Siya Kolisi over on the left-hand side.
“I thought the guys were outstanding in the 31 minutes (of the first half). Unfortunately, it went a little bit awry, but I won’t focus on the negatives. We know what those are and we can fix the things that didn’t work for us,” Everitt said in the post-match press conference.
“The guys came out in very difficult conditions – it was humid and wet, which made it even more difficult – and they were really brave with ball-in-hand. We wanted to play quickly tonight and it actually worked well. The guys’ skill-level was really high, so I am very happy with how they played.
“I said the Preparation Cup is about putting processes together for the long-term goal, and we certainly achieved that, along with giving everyone else opportunities.”
While the Sharks were intent on keeping the ball alive, Everitt felt that the circumstances also assisted them in that regard, with the Bulls’ forwards taking a beating upfront, while the visitors coughed up possession almost every time they tried to put a few phases together.
“We’ve got a certain style of rugby that we wanted to play, but I think the opportunities allowed it to happen for us. We counter-attacked really well. We didn’t play much rugby in our own half, and went for touch early in the games,” the Sharks mentor said.
FULL TIME:— The Sharks (@TheSharksZA) March 26, 2021
The @cellc Sharks were at full value for their 7 tries to 2 victory over @BlueBullsRugby at JONSSON King's Park, with an adventurous game that flew in the face of the conditions blowing the visitors away. #OurSharksForever #SHAvBUL #FrontlineFighters pic.twitter.com/RjN9goo8gP
“We were in the right position in the field, and from turnover ball, you do have that opportunity in a 10-second window to be able to move the ball – it’s just the fact that the guys moved it so well. People think that that was our plan…
“Our set-piece was really good in the first 25 minutes, and that set up a really good platform for our attack, as well as our lineout. Our maul functioned early, so that was really good. And perhaps that’s where it went wrong later in the game – our set-piece wasn’t as good as when we started. But credit to the Bulls for nullifying that strength of ours.”
Bulls boss Jake White rather opted to praise the Durbanites for their performance than to criticise his team’s inability to maintain their composure, as they looked to match the Sharks’ ball-in-hand approach instead of slowing the game down and keeping things tight with the forwards.
It was a mix-and-match combination that was always going to find it difficult to get any sort of cohesion on attack.
“I don’t really have the answers as to what happened in the first 24 minutes. I put it down to the fact that we are still a little inexperienced; the wet weather was a bit different; the conditions were a little different. It’s not ideal, but we will learn – if we are not winning, we are learning,” White said.
“I must say, after 24 minutes and 31-5 down, we didn’t let them score again until the 72nd minute, when we had 13 men on the field. It’s never nice when you are on the receiving end of such a result, but I’ve got to say, a lot of fighting spirit.
“When you’ve got that, there are a lot of things you can work on. When you’ve got that as a coach, as I said to the players, you can build on that.
“To be fair, I think they played really well – their catch and pass, their offload game, everything stuck for them. They scored some nice tries. A couple of times we created something – the one time, the ball bounced over Lizo’s (Gqoboka) head and basically bounced into one of their hands… Take nothing away from them.
“I must put things into perspective: we played against that team, only Curwin (Bosch) wasn’t there, and (Aphelele) Fassi came on. So, literally almost the exact team that played us in the Currie Cup final at Loftus with our best team, and it took us 100 minutes to beat them.”
While the Bulls didn’t sustain any injuries, Sharks No 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe left the field in the first half with a hamstring problem, but Everitt said that he didn’t think it was too serious.
Flyhalf Curwin Bosch, who was ruled out with a thumb injury, is expected to return to training next week ahead of the Rainbow Cup.