DURBAN – Sharks assistant coach Braam van Straaten is honest enough to state the obvious when he says the gutted Sharks have to cut back on charity and toughen up on gifting the opposition easy points.
For the Waratahs, it was Christmas all over again at Kings Park at the weekend when the home side drilled them for most of the match, only to intermittently throw them a bouquet of flowers in the form of points.
The Waratahs would have been laughing all the way back to their Umhlanga Rocks hotel, having been given two precious Super Rugby points on a platter by a home team that would have looked at the 24-24 scoreline and weeped.
“We are very disappointed by the result given that we were so keen to win our first home game and get momentum going forward towards our tour,” Van Straaten said.
Next week, after playing the Sunwolves in Durban on Saturday, the Sharks are on tour to the Brumbies, Rebels, Blues and Hurricanes.
“The Sunwolves match this weekend is critical in that we have to get on the plane having put in a strong performance,” Van Straaten said.
“Pre-season learning is done and dusted and obviously we now have to execute not just on the training field but in the game situation. We have to have patience, that is the most important thing,” the former Springbok flyhalf said. “We have to keep the ball and keep the opposition under pressure.
“When you chuck away a handful of chances you get burned, and the players have to realise that they have to keep focused beyond the 83rd minute.”
Van Straaten said that the Sharks had to quickly learn how to close out games in the unforgiving world of Super Rugby.
“It is great that we have a young group of players who want to play attacking rugby but they need to be clever about it,” Van Straaten said. “It is a young group which is hungry to do well but they have to learn about taking chances on attack while not gifting opportunities to the opposition.”
Van Straaten said the coaching staff were happy with the exuberance of the players and their willingness to throw the ball about but they had to better sum up the situation in front of them before making wild passes.
“We gave away to many 50-50 passes when it should be more like 80-20 passes,” Van Straaten said. “And that means composure and patience. If we are in the opposition’s gold zone and they are on retreat, we have to convert at least half of the 10 or more opportunities that come our way.”
The Sunwolves this week will be more of a challenge on defence than the Waratahs, who play structured rugby.
“The Sunwolves come with a new challenge,” Van Straaten said.
“They are a lively team and will play off any opportunities we give them. We will have to shut them down, there will be no quick throw-ins.
We have to control the game and give them nothing for free.”