There was more relief than elation for Cell C Sharks coach Gary Gold after his team bounced back from an opening loss to secure an impressive bonus-point win over the Emirates Lions in their weekend SuperRugby match at Kings Park.
“I think relief is the word, it’s certainly not a big celebration. It’s such early days now, you can throw all these cliches around and say you move on from a loss like last week. But you don’t really move on from a loss like that. It was disappointing and really it was our own fault.
“We didn’t perform well enough last week, so it was weighing heavily on our minds. That’s the psychological challenge you have as a coach, it’s hopefully to give the players confidence that they’re good enough and they can come back from something like that,” Gold said after the Sharks’ 29-12 triumph.
The scrum was the outstanding facet of play for the Sharks, with the Du Plessis brothers, Jannie and Bismarck, showing their class and being ably assisted by loosehead Dale Chadwick as the highly-rated Lions set-piece was dismantled.
Lions coach Johan Ackermann pinpointed Bismarck du Plessis’ return at hooker for the dramatic improvement in the Sharks scrum.
“Bismarck made the big difference there,” said Ackermann. “He outsmarted our young front row and was exceptional. Those scrum penalties against us were very disappointing, we are far better than that, but credit must go to the Sharks.”
For the Sharks to score four tries in sodden conditions that almost saw the game postponed was also highly impressive and Gold admitted it was far more than he had hoped for.
“I didn’t ever imagine we would score four tries in those conditions, but I’m very grateful it did end up that way. I thought we managed the game well to be able to keep the momentum that got us to those opportunities that led to the tries.
“I was happy with the urgency and the general play all round. So I’m very proud of the performance,” Gold said.
The former Springbok forwards coach also praised Bismarck du Plessis for his display, especially since his shoulder is still troubling him.
“His presence was a factor, there’s no doubt about it, because we know what a world-class player he is for so many reasons. He threw into the lineouts particularly well today, he led the team well and obviously he stabilised our scrum,” Gold said.
Other high points for the Sharks were the burgeoning relationship between halfbacks Pat Lambie and Cobus Reinach, which looked a marriage made in heaven in conditions in which their tactical play was always going to be vital.
Lambie made liberal use of the crosskick to set up two of the Sharks’ tries, while opposite number Marnitz Boshoff failed to adapt his game-plan to the wet conditions, and the superb displays of the Du Plessis brothers, lock Pieter-Steph du Toit, Reinach and Lambie are surely not going to go unnoticed by Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer with the World Cup in the northern hemisphere later this year.