DURBAN – The Sharks will be aiming for a much-improved performance on Saturday when they host the Lions after failing to impress their coach in their fortuitous 33-30 victory over the Stormers in the Rainbow Cup opener at the Cape Town Stadium.
Sean Everitt was not amused after the Stormers left the Sharks in their starting blocks to race into a 17-0 lead, and then having fought their way back into leading 33-23 , the Sharks spend the last quarter of the match hanging on for dear life.
It was probably no-coincidence that when the Sharks staged their comeback, the Stormers were men down after suffering two red cards.
“We are not happy with our performance but we will gladly take the result,” Everitt said.
“It is the sign of a good team when you don’t play well but you still win, but we need to play better than that …”
The Stormers came within a whisker of snatching the spoils at the very death when Ruhan Nel dived into the in-goal area to ground the ball, following a grubber through the defence, but he fluffed it, and the Sharks survived.
“I think it says a lot about how well-conditioned the guys are that they kept the Stormers out for the last 20 minutes of the game — we had no possession and could only defend — especially those driving mauls close to our line,” Everitt said.
“But we are a performance-driven team and that was not the performance we had planned.”
Everitt said the big positive was the character shown by the team.
“We have created a positive environment for the players, and they respect that and their work ethic can’t be questioned,” the coach said.
“Our set-pieces were not good, particularly the line-out early on, and we gave away penalty after penalty (for Stormers’ kicker Kade Wolhuter to convert into points), and that put us under scoreboard pressure, but we found a way — the guys moved the ball nicely in the second half.”
Everitt said an obvious work-on is the wobbly line-out.
“We knew we would be coming up against quite a few Boks in the Stormers pack, so the set-pieces were always going to be an upward battle, but we have to be better than that.
“Hats off to our forwards, though, for ultimately keeping the Stormers pack at bay.”
The Sharks’ unlikely hero was new second-row recruit Reniel Hugo, the son of ‘80s Western Province and Springbok lock Neil Hugo.
The former Free Stater scored three tries in the space of just six minutes early in the second half after the home team had led 23-12 at the break, with the 21-point turnaround suddenly putting the Sharks in the driving seat.
“It was a big turning point,” Everitt acknowledged.
“Reniel put in a very good performance generally all around the field. His work rate was very high, and that is why we brought him to the Sharks.
“His quick tap for one of his tries showed good game appreciation because we wanted to avoid set-pieces.”