Sharks coach ‘proud’ of pack

Sharks coach Sean Everitt says he was very happy with the way his forwards managed to negate Western Province’s strengths in their Currie Cup semi-final win on Saturday. DYLAN JACK reports.

The Sharks turned in a gritty display to fight to a 19-9 victory over Western Province at Newlands and progress to the Currie Cup final, where they will face the Vodacom Bulls in Pretoria.

It was by no means the flashiest of performance from the Durban team, as they found themselves under pressure in their own 22-metre area for much of the first half, but the defended tenaciously and put the hosts under plenty of pressure whenever they looked to launch a maul, which has traditionally been one of Western Province’s strengths.

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Thanks to the pinpoint boot of flyhalf Curwin Bosch and a late try from lock JJ van der Mescht, the Sharks were able to come away with the victory.

Speaking after the game, Sharks coach Sean Everitt was left delighted with the way his pack adapted to the situation and contained the threat of Western Province’s scrum and maul.

‘We spoke for the last two weeks that the game would be won up front. I am just proud of our guys and how they adapted to the plans they had in the different aspects of the game, two of them being scrumming and stopping mauls.

‘We know that that’s been Western Province’s strength for this entire Currie Cup and they have scored a number of tries from those mauls. We managed to negate their strength. I am absolutely proud of the guts the guys showed in executing that plan.

‘I am very happy that the players are going to have the opportunity to play in a final. Super Rugby last year is long gone. I still feel that we aren’t playing as well as we did back then. This afternoon’s game shows that when you have a plan and the guys stick to it, that they get results. I am exceptionally happy for the guys, for the effort they put in, during a difficult and challenging season.’

Everitt admitted that the Sharks will have to improve on their error-rate if they hope to upset the Bulls in a week’s time, but added that such a scrappy contest was the consequence of both teams’ tactics.

‘Obviously there were mistakes in the game. I think it was more in the way that the game was played. Western Province kicked a lot of contestables and so did we. When you are kicking like that, it is never not going to be a scrappy affair because the ball does fall on the floor and it is very difficult to compete in the aerial battle.

‘Yes, there were mistakes. It was part of our plan to put the ball in the air and put their back three under pressure, which I think we did very well. At times we won some really important scraps on the ground.

‘The last two weeks that we have had together was the perfect opportunity to rebuid. It has been a difficult season. We haven’t had consistency in our team selection.

‘We haven’t had a full squad to choose from since our game against the Bulls in the early rounds of the Currie Cup. So it has been challenging.  I am just really proud of the guys. I am actually happy for them to play in a final. They deserve everything that they get.’

Everitt added that the Bulls, who finished on top of both the Super Rugby Unlocked and Currie Cup table, will ask different questions of his side. In particular, he pointed out the threat that loose-forwards Marco van Staden and Duane Vermeulen will pose at the breakdown.

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‘Going to the highveld will pose different challenges. It’s usually dry there, unless there is a thunderstorm in the afternoon. So we will go back home and put a nice plan together so that we are able to come out on top in the final.

‘The Bulls forwards have always been dominant as a pack. They are a powerful unit. They can mix up their game well with counter-attacks and they play well from turnovers. It all comes from pressure at breakdown. Marco van Staden and Duane Vermeulen have been huge in that area. The Bulls have shown they are the form side. They are going to be a massive challenge up at Loftus.’

Photo: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images

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Dylan Jack