Lots of char­ac­ter drives Sharks to the top

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - MIKE GREENAWAY

WIN­NING re­quires tal­ent and hard work, but to win three games in eight days takes char­ac­ter and that’s what the Sharks have shown in beat­ing Gri­quas, the Bulls and the Lions to go top of the Cur­rie Cup log.

That was the assess­ment of coach Robert du Preez af­ter his team’sre­mark­able sec­ond-half come­back against the Lions.

“At half-time (when 31-5 down), there were no real harsh words spo­ken,” Du Preez said. “It was a half where noth­ing had gone right and it was a case of calm­ing down and start­ing afresh, and I think that hav­ing scored a try af­ter the half-time hooter gave us a lift go­ing into the change rooms.

“I just said to the guys that we have to sort out our set-pieces (which had not been func­tion­ing) and to hang onto the ball and build phases,” the coach added.

“And we had a fairy­tale sec­ond half, it doesn’t get bet­ter than scor­ing 42 points against the Lions in Jo­han­nes­burg in a sec­ond half.”

It helped, of course, that the Lions went a man down af­ter 10 min­utes of the half when hooker Rob­bie Coet­zee was red-carded for a kick to the face of Jac­ques Ver­meulen, who had just grounded the ball for a try.

Du Preez ad­mit­ted it was a game-chang­ing mo­ment.

“Jac­ques had al­ready scored the try (when the kick went to his eye). On TV it looked bad, it was a kick in the face and pos­si­bly won’t go down well (at the dis­ci­plinary). It is very tough to play with 14 men, we have seen that this sea­son, and it did change the game.”

Coet­zee was prob­a­bly more clumsy than any­thing else as he looked to try and kick the ball away from Ver­meulen as he went over the try line, but what­ever the case it was hugely costly for the Lions.

Their scrum fell apart af­ter that and it was a case of the Sharks get­ting ter­ri­tory and then go­ing for the scrum, which was so dom­i­nant that it re­sulted in three tries.

“Af­ter the card, the mes­sage was very clear – get into the Lions 22 and se­cure scrums. That way we made the ex­tra man count,” Du Preez said.

The Sharks have been on the wrong side of a num­ber of close games at El­lis Park in re­cent years and Du Preez said the win had given his side a sig­nif­i­cant lift in self-be­lief.

“It was fan­tas­tic to win here. A lot of the guys had never won at El­lis Park be­fore, even ex­pe­ri­enced guys like Franco Marais, and vet­er­ans like Odwa Ndun­gane and Kee­gan Daniel could not re­call when they had last won there.

“It was also my first win here as a coach, a spe­cial mo­ment. It and it has given us a lot of con­fi­dence. We have a bye now and have some nice mo­men­tum to take into next week’s trip to WP.”

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