Despite the Sharks keeping their SuperRugby playoff hopes alive with their 26-10 win over the Cheetahs in Durban, coach Gary Gold did not try to hide his disappointment with the quality of their performance, with many feeling it was a fortuitous escape for the home side.
“I was disappointed in the performance, especially in two areas – the number of errors and our discipline. We kept the Cheetahs in the game by doing things like dropping the kick-off or kicking straight into touch, and we also wasted a couple of try-scoring opportunities.
“We didn’t get our territory game going, our set-piece struggled, our maul was penalised and our kicking game wasn’t good enough. We also conceded quite a soft try from our perspective. We said before the match that we didn’t want to get into a game of touch rugby with them, but that’s what happened,” Gold said after the win, which leaves the Sharks with a two-point lead over the Bulls as the hunt for the third South African qualifying place enters its final weekend.
Gold did, however, praise the character of his team, especially during the middle of the first half when captain Tendai Mtawarira was yellow-carded for slapping an opponent and they conceded three scrum penalties in a row on their own line.
“It was a test of character today and it was critically important the way we defended, especially during that period when we were already 7-3 down. If the Cheetahs had gone to 14, we would have had a real dog-fight on our hands. It’s not the glamorous part of rugby, but we had to really dig deep in the face of a potential penalty try. We defended really nicely then and I thought Andre Esterhuizen did particularly well. It would have been very difficult to have come back from conceding another try then,” Gold conceded.
While the Sharks, who play the lowly Sunwolves in Durban next weekend, are the favourites to claim the third SA qualifying berth, Gold said they really needed to up their game and produce a carbon-copy of the efficient performances they produced in New Zealand.
“We’ve been stuttering since the break and we need a properly good performance just to get our confidence going. To just win against the Sunwolves won’t be good enough, we need a clinical performance, like we had in New Zealand, and to really put them to the sword.”
Gold said the team was disregarding what the Bulls did and were focusing on their own game.
“We thought the Bulls would win, but we were focusing on this game because it was a potential banana skin. If we’d lost, everything we’d done in the last 13 weeks would have been in tatters. The fan would have been really dirty … ”