Having staged a stirring comeback to level the scores at 27-27, the Sharks were meant to keep possession and force a penalty in the final stages of their nailbiting United Rugby Championship quarterfinal against the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld, coach Sean Everitt said.
They were also meant to avoid giving the Bulls the ball in their own 22. Sadly for the Sharks, they failed to do both things and the Bulls snatched victory with an 84th-minute drop goal.
“The team is hurting and extremely disappointed,” a gutted Everitt said. “But I am proud of their effort and character. There were just a couple of soft moments, which were disappointing.
“At the end the result could have gone either way and we could have had a bit more fortune in the last five minutes. The plan was to hold on to the ball, put them under pressure and try to earn a penalty.
“We believed we could win, we showed tremendous character and never gave up. But our execution just needed to be a bit better. Things like that last pass just not going to hand.
“And we spoke about discipline and not giving the Bulls the ball in our 22, which is exactly what we did. They are clinical there and they have the best completion rate inside the 22 in the competition,” Everitt said.
If coach mends things
The coach said he believes that if he mends a couple of things before next season, the Sharks can go all the way in 2022/23.
“If you look at where we have improved, the set-piece has come on a lot. But our balance on the field has improved too – now we can use our set-piece and we can score tries.
“We put ourselves in position to score tries today and there is no question about the character, culture or team environment because they showed their pride today.
“We just need to fix the rugby side and we especially need to work on the attacking breakdown. We gave the Bulls field position from there, it was a problem against Ulster and in our two previous games against the Bulls,” Everitt said.
By scoring twice in the final quarter to come back from 13-27 down, the Sharks showed their attack is plenty dangerous when it clicks. Phepsi Buthelezi is developing into a top-class ball-in-hand eighthman to provide the link to a backline in which wing Makazole Mapimpi was a threat throughout.
People should not run pell-mell to the conclusion that this is a poorly-coached Sharks team.
“I suppose if you look at Springboks and World Cup winners then we do have a lot of them and they can be proud of their effort. We played some really good rugby.
“I actually enjoyed watching the game even though my blood pressure was probably through the roof. We got the ball through the hands on a couple of occasions and looked really dangerous.
“Under-performance is a broad topic and rugby has a lot of variables. At times we’ve not played as well as we would have liked, and there are certain aspects of our game that need to be worked on.
“Obviously there are things to improve, and they are all fixable. The team has done exceptionally well and they want to play for the jersey,” Everitt said.