There is no escaping reality for Sharks fans, who witnessed their team take a step backward in the new era under John Plumtree when they were awful in losing 19-5 to the Ospreys in London on Friday night.
The game was played at The Stoop, near Twickenham Stadium, because the Welsh side’s home ground in Swansea was double-booked.
That suited the Sharks because the venue was neutral, but a host of expat Durbanites were left crestfallen when their team delivered an abject performance against one of the weaker outfits in the United Rugby Championship.
It was the Sharks’ third successive defeat on the road – they had earlier lost to Munster and Leinster – and the expectation was that this match would deliver their first win.
It did not happen, mostly because of a bewildering number of unforced errors for a Sharks team bereft of confidence, despite a fourth-minute try by loose forward Phepsi Buthelezi that put the visitors 5-0 up.
They have one of the most experienced coaches in the world in Plumtree, and the New Zealander said his team needs to learn from their mistakes sooner rather than later.
“It is very frustrating. We started well by scoring a good try, and then our discipline let us down and we had to defend for long periods in our 22, and they scored,” he said.
“Then poor decision-making gifted them an intercept try, and suddenly we were 19-5 and chasing the game. We are good enough to build pressure, but not good enough to turn it into points.”
Plumtree said his team’s lack of discipline was costly.
“Discipline is a worry, and we have to look at ourselves. As much as the Ospreys deserved that win, I don’t think they were better than us – and we should be doing a lot better.
“We have a big week ahead of us as we turn to Zebre in Italy (Friday, 7.10pm kick-off). We have to find belief and confidence, and fix the things that are letting us down,” the former All Black assistant coach said.
“It happened in our games against Munster and Leinster, and it is still happening now. We have been a bit slow to learn, and we have to find a win to get some confidence in our game.”
The Sharks are missing eight Springboks, but Plumtree said that was no excuse.
“All the teams are missing players, and we have a squad that is good enough to be doing better than we are.
“It calls for some patience, and it is going to take time to build our game, but there are things we can control that we are not doing well – discipline, decision-making and not taking opportunities – and we need to be better in these aspects.
“This week we travel to Zebre, and we need to stick real tight and prepare as best we can to win, but we have to find a spark and some confidence over the next six days.”
Ospreys 19 – Tries: Jack Walsh, Max Nagy, Keiran Williams. Conversion: Jack Walsh (2).
Sharks 5 – Try: Phepsi Buthelezi.