Assistant coach Braam van Straaten says the Sharks’ discipline and game management will have to improve ahead of the clash with the Vodacom Bulls on Saturday.
The Sharks are coming off their first loss of the season against the Stormers in Durban last weekend after claiming bonus-point wins in their opening fixtures against the Sunwolves and Blues.
The hosts were let down by some poor discipline, as they lost both hooker Akker van der Merwe and centre Lukhanyo Am to yellow cards in the first half last weekend, while they struggled to deal with the Stormers’ kicking game and physical defence.
The Sharks next travel to Pretoria to face a Bulls team that have won both of their South African derbies against the Stormers and Lions this year.
Reflecting on the loss against the Stormers, Van Straaten says the Sharks’ cannot afford to make the same errors against the Bulls.
‘Our discipline wasn’t good enough. We had two yellow cards in the first half, and that put us under pressure because now you’re defending with 14 men for 20 minutes. Although we played well in the second half, we just didn’t get the reward. There was a definite step-up in energy, the replacements had a big impact.
‘It was a big learning curve for everybody,’ he added. ‘You need to be able to handle the pressure better, and I think our game management needs to be better. We still want to go out there and play attacking rugby, but we have to be accurate in the way we go about it.’
With the Bulls boasting a pack that includes the likes of in-form hooker Schalk Brits, No 8 Duane Vermeulen and abrasive lock Jason Jenkins, Van Straaten is anticipating a physical encounter.
‘The Bulls are a good side, we need to be on our game to put them under pressure, and hopefully we will do that for long periods in the game. It comes down to decision-making, there’s a lot more to it than just playing.
‘They have played well, let’s give them the credit they’re due. But we know what we can do and what we can bring to the party, and we know it’s going to be a huge, physical battle. But it’s not only about being physical, we need to be smart as well.’
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