Gary Gold says the Sharks have to take collective responsibility for the struggles they endured at scrum time against the Lions, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
The Lions dominated their opponents at this set piece on Saturday, particularly in the first half when they were awarded a number of momentum-shifting penalties.
Lions props Dylan Smith and Julian Redelinghuys were again very impressive as the Lions lived up to their reputation as formidable scrummagers, with Springbok opponents Beast Mtawarira and Coenie Oosthuizen finding themselves on the back foot for much of the first half.
‘We just didn’t handle things well enough, and obviously it did have a big effect,’ the Sharks director of rugby acknowledged after the game. ‘The set piece is always critically important. When we launched off lineouts and kept the ball through the phases, we looked good. It’s also vitally important to launch plays from scrum time, but we just weren’t able to do so, and conceded some penalties. The Lions were able to keep getting ascendancy, which they benefited from.’
Oosthuizen was replaced just before half-time, and while certain pundits have continued to question his enduring suitability to perform in the incredibly challenging tighthead prop position, Gold refused to be drawn into laying the blame on one individual.
‘There are eight guys in a scrum, so we can’t just find a scapegoat. Stephan Lewies unfortunately wasn’t available for this week, while Philip van der Walt also had to be ruled out. The scrums were working well for the first few weeks, and there were a number of them where Coenie performed very well. At the end of the day the Lions are a good scrumming team and they deserve credit for their performance. We just didn’t function as well as we wanted to as a unit.’
The Sharks have now headed off on a three-week tour of New Zealand, and Gold called on his troops to bounce back from consecutive losses and a draw, which has seen the Durban-based side slip to second place in the Africa 2 conference.
‘It’s time for us to take stock of where we are, it’s certainly not going to get easier. We’ll probably be written off by most before going on a tour like this, but I think this is going to be a great test of our character. We can’t bury our heads in the sand, we have to man up and take on the challenge.’
Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images