Cell C Sharks coach Gary Gold said on Sunday that there was no need to panic after his team succumbed to a shock 35-29 home loss to the Toyota Cheetahs in their Vodacom SuperRugby opener at Kings Park.
It was an uncharacteristically error-ridden performance from the Sharks and the Cheetahs are the last team that will stand back and allow mistakes to go unpunished, running in four tries to claim the bonus point and put themselves second on the overall log and on top of the South African Conference.
“People have got to learn the lesson that you can’t underestimate the Cheetahs, the type of team they are, tightly-knit and able to punish any errors. So we knew what the Cheetahs were about, but we made far too many errors and we had set-piece problems.
“It was just one of those days and it depends on how you deal with it. It’s no good panicking about it, we need to feel the pain and fix what went wrong on the night. And we know what to fix, starting with the set-piece,” Gold told The Citizen on Sunday.
The new Sharks coach was, however, pleased with the character his side showed in the second half in trying to overcome a 35-22 deficit.
“We showed great character in the second half to come back and if Marcell Coetzee’s try had been allowed we would have won. That doesn’t take away from a poor performance, but the fact is that we still had an opportunity to win the game despite playing so poorly,” Gold said.
Hooker and captain Bismarck du Plessis was a late withdrawal through injury and then loosehead prop Tendai Mtawarira limped off with what looks to be a serious calf tear shortly before halftime to disrupt the Sharks pack, but Gold said they needed to adapt better to the misfortune.
The Sharks were their own worst enemies, which was no better illustrated than in the 27th minute after Pat Lambie had just scored to put the home side’s noses in front 13-10. From the kickoff, the ball went to hooker Kyle Cooper and he contrived to kick waywardly, even though fullback SP Marais was all lined up to clear with his left foot, the ball going straight to eighthman Willie Britz, who counter-attacked to set up a try for centre Francois Venter. The Sharks were never ahead again.
Cheetahs coach Naka Drotske praised experienced flyhalf and new signing Joe Pietersen and the defence for taking the underdogs to victory.
“We knew if we wanted to beat them we had to have a good kicking plan and Joe made a real difference for us. He’s really calm and brings a lot of experience. I thought tactically he and Willie le Roux really kicked well and really put them under pressure, especially in the first half.
“The big difference between us tonight and last year was the work-rate on defence. I think the intensity is something we’ve worked on and that made a big difference. The second half we lost some momentum, but the defence pulled us through,” Drotske said.