There was an acceptance among the dejected Sharks on Friday night that they had taken a step backwards in their match against Boland after having finished strongly against Western Province the week before.
There was also an acknowledgment that the 10 minutes of “proper” rugby that was good enough to put daylight between them and the Cavaliers will hardly be sufficient against the Bulls this week in Pretoria, writes Mike Greenaway for IOL.
The Cavaliers are renowned for their ability to make life difficult for “A” section provinces, but only if they are allowed to, and that is what will have annoyed the Sharks’ coaching staff most.
In the first half especially, the Sharks recklessly or negligently turned over the ball almost every time they go it, and that allowed the young Boland team to get their tails up.
The Sharks got better shape when John Plumtree made a number of substitutions early in the second half, including swapping the more experienced Monty Dumond for rookie Andrew Borgen at flyhalf and Skipper Badenhorst for Craig Burden at hooker, but the im-provement in play could have been coincidental with the generally uplifted team effort.
“In fairness to Borgen, we were so poor it was hard for him to look good,” Plumtree said.
“When Monty came on we started to play better as a team, but there are a lot of guys in the side who need to look at themselves in the mirror now.
“We also needed the kicks that Monty made after Rory Kockott went off with an ankle injury.”
The influential Kockott is likely to be sidelined for at least a week with his sprained ankle, but young Charl Macleod looks very promising.
Borgen and Dumond got their opportunities because Bradley Barritt failed a late fitness test on a quadricep injury. Plans were for him to play flyhalf until Frederic Michalak is fit in about three weeks time.
“We missed Brad Barritt tonight in terms of his direction and leadership,” Plumtree said. “He is a big player for us, he should be back this week.”
In mitigation for the Sharks, the Cavaliers played very well and it is probably a good thing that the home side have had a wake-up call.
“Boland came here for a real scrap,” Plumtree said. “There are graveyards all over South Africa laid by the smaller unions and sometimes they visit you in the mood to bury you. They had nothing to lose and showed total commitment.”
Which was not the case for the Sharks.
“We had the firepower for this game, but not the commitment,” Plumtree said with finality.Tweet