Touring Sharks can make it three wins from four
DURBAN – The Sharks conclude their four-match tour of Australasia on Saturday against the Reds in Brisbane with every reason to believe they can notch up three wins from four.
South African teams are notoriously poor when travelling from New Zealand to Australia, but the Sharks addressed this issue in the build-up to the game against the Melbourne Rebels and nailed five tries in a largely impressive performance.
“I think it is a mental thing about travelling to Australia after New Zealand but we looked at this when we travelled to Melbourne,” coach Sean Everitt said. “The thing is, we remain a performance-based team and we knew that if we increased our intensity from the Hurricanes game we had a good chance of beating the Rebels.”
The Sharks’ set piece was much better than it had been in their loss to the Hurricanes, but against the Rebels their lineout malfunctioned in the third quarter of the game, a time when the Sharks were under pressure with first hooker Kerron van Vuuren sin-binned for a dangerous tackle and then wing Madosh Tambwe the victim for his team’s multiple infringements at the breakdown.
The Shark’s set scrum was much better from the Hurricanes game, but the lineout remains a serious area of concern.
The penalty account for the Sharks was substantially lower (eight) than it had been in the earlier rounds (15 against the Highlanders and 12 against the Hurricanes) and Everitt was pleased on that score.
“We can’t win games when we are giving away territory and possession,” Everitt said from his team’s Gold Coast base where the Sharks are preparing for the Reds.
“I thought the guys responded well from a discipline point of view to bring the penalty count down, but we still need to watch our defence out wide.”
Everitt was alluding to the defence of the Sharks’ back three, which saw fullback Aphelele Fassi, and wings Makazole Mapimpi and Madosh Tambwe all slip tackles leading to tries by the Rebels.
The Sharks were heavily disrupted before the Hurricanes game by injuries and illness, but they responded admirably against the Rebels to win their second match on the road.
Stand-in captain Andre Esterhuizen was hugely influential in deputising for rested Lukhanyo Am, who was taking a break in accordance with an agreement with Springbok management.
Esterhuizen was arguably the best Sharks player on the park, scoring a try and winning turnovers at the breakdown.