Kicking game let the Sharks down, says Sharks coach
CAPE TOWN - You could hear the disappointment and even irritation in Sharks coach Sean Everitt’s voice as he tried to explain how his team went down 41-14 to the Bulls on Saturday night.
To concede six tries on top of it made things even worse considering Everitt’s team knew exactly what to expect from Jake White’s side at Loftus Versfeld.
The 49-28 SuperFan Saturday loss would’ve given him a few pointers, with the main challenges being how to deal with the Bulls’ physicality and their kicking game.
And although the Sharks started well and even led 6-3 in the first half, the Bulls eventually got into their stride - while the loss of tighthead prop Thomas du Toit to a calf injury left a real vacuum up front.
Everitt didn’t think that his players gave the Springbok-laden Bulls too much respect, though. “If you look at the first half, we had the dominant scrum in the first 25 minutes until Thomas went off. So, I don’t think it’s a lack of respect - I think we took them on physically and we had a lot of go-forward in the first half as well when we had ball-in-hand,” he said.
“We went forward in our carry and went forward on our line-speed. I don’t think it’s the respect, I think it’s the execution of our plan. (The kicking game) was definitely an area of concern for us. Those individuals (Sanele Nohamba, Curwin Bosch and Manie Libbok) have done the job for us in the past, and have done a job really, really well. Our kicking against the Lions was tops - we regained 10 of our 11 contestables within two phases.
“(This time), they were just a little bit off the mark, and the Bulls capitalised on that, and put us under pressure and got behind us.”
But perhaps something Everitt didn’t expect was the continuity in the Bulls’ attack. They had battled in that regard in their previous two games against Griquas and the Cheetahs, and seemed to be low on confidence.
Suddenly they found their spark, with the likes of Cornal Hendricks, Stedman Gans, Kurt-Lee Arendse and Travis Ismaiel prominent.
And Bulls captain and Man of the Match Duane Vermeulen led the physical onslaught for the hosts, which meant that the Sharks’ silky loose trio of Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Phepsi Buthelezi and James Venter were eventually forced on to the back foot.
“What happens is that the breakdown goes well when we had forward dominance in our carries. As the game wore on and became more physical, I think the Bulls out-muscled us a little bit, and maybe our reaction to the breakdown wasn’t good enough,” the coach said.
“But Marco van Staden is not a Springbok for nothing - he is a great fetcher and was responsible for most of those turnovers.”
A malfunctioning line-out was a major stumbling block too, with hooker Dylan Richardson unable to find his jumpers at crucial times. But Everitt pleaded patience for the former openside flank’s conversion to a new position.