DURBAN – There was a telling remark from Sharks coach Robert du Preez after his team had lost 37-14 to the Bulls.
Du Preez frankly said: “For two weeks in a row now we have been beaten up (against the Stormers at Jonsson Kings Park and now at Loftus Versfeld).
The SA derbies are unbelievably physical and the team that is the most aggressive will come out on top, and for two weeks in a row it has not been us.”
Similarly, Du Preez said on Thursday that “this game will be won and lost up front, as it always is at Loftus in SA derbies”.
So the Sharks went to Pretoria forewarned and in full combat mode, yet were hit for six in the first half-an-hour of the match, and that was their bundle, apart from a positive patch in the 20 minutes after half-time.
What is worrying for the Sharks is that they knew what to expect yet could not handle the situation.
Du Preez, to his credit, admitted as much.
“It was another clinical performance by the Bulls. They dismantled us, especially in the first 20 minutes when we just couldn’t get going, with the penalties we were forced into conceding. We ended up with something like 15 forced turnovers, which resulted in limited possession and territory.”
For the Sharks, it started with their front row of The Beast, Akker van der Merwe and Coenie Oosthuizen. If they had dominated as a unit or at least held their own, the Sharks’ backs might have been able to run on to the ball and ask questions of the defence. Instead they got static ball and were stopped in their tracks.
Van der Merwe had his moments in loose play and was a stand-out Shark, but as a unit the Shark’s front row was well beaten by Trevor Nyakane, Schalk Brits and Lizo Gqoboka.
“It is a concern, but we have a talented squad and I know we will bounce back after our bye this week (the Sharks next play the Rebels at Jonsson Kings Park),” said Du Preez.
The Sharks just did not seem to have the fire power in the tight five. The second row of Hyron Andrews and Gideon Koegelenberg does not (at this stage) look like Super Rugby strength. The former is lightweight and the latter, while certainly talented, is still wet behind the ears.
And, to add salt into the Sharks’ wounds, Sanzaar yesterday announced that centre Jeremy Ward has been cited for the “red card offence” of lifting a player in the tackle and driving his upper body downwards. Ward’s hearing is today.