The Sharks will be eager to put a torrid 2015 behind them as they begin pre-season training for 2016, director of rugby Gary Gold saying they will be looking to start a new era of success for the KwaZulu-Natal side.
“Everyone’s had a good break so now we need to hit the ground running. I hope this young side will be energetic and enthusiastic, because I see this as a new era and I’m certainly excited, keen to put the last year behind us as quickly as possible,” Gold told The Citizen before the Sharks started their pre-season training on Tuesday.
Despite his optimism, Gold conceded that there would be no quick-fix solution to the problems that bedevilled the Sharks in 2015, which saw them finish 11th in Super Rugby and fifth in the Currie Cup.
“It’s very important to make it clear that we won’t be making any excuses, our performance simply wasn’t good enough, especially for a franchise as big as the Sharks. But an era was coming to an end, we lost a lot of stalwarts and it’s not ideal having four coaches in 18 months at the same time. Change hit us hard and we also had insurmountable injuries, but the bottom line is that the performance was poor,” Gold said.
While Gold is firmly in the camp that favours South African rugby moving forward towards a more free-flowing style, he says defence will be the focus in terms of their Super Rugby preparations.
“Of course I want us to be more of a threat with ball in hand, but defence is the foundation of every good team. I know it’s not romantic, but you learn a lot about a team by how hard they work for each other in defence. We were substantially better in the Currie Cup, our points difference of only -8 shows that, but we need to put pressure on the opposition through our defence.
“A lot of tries these days still come from turnovers, mistakes and poor kicks, and we need to try and force those through our defence. But we also need to be more clever and, strategically, to think more out of the box. Robert du Preez [the new assistant coach] also ticks a lot of boxes for us, he’s a hard taskmaster and there are no half-measures with him,” Gold said.