Sean Everitt and his Sharks XV held on to beat a determined Free State side by 26 points to 17 on Saturday in the Vodacom Cup. The win moves the XV back to the top of the log, although their grip on first place is tenuous indeed, based only on points difference.
Sharksworld caught up with Sharks XV flanker Justin Downey – playing on the blindside this week – to get his thoughts on the game. In the interests of staying on the bleeding edge of technology, I decided to explore the possibilities that my new BlackBerry smartphone provides and I have great pleasure in bringing you the first ever Sharksworld interview conducted via BlackBerry chat! There’s no looking back now, ladies and gents!
The game took on a reasonably familiar tone, with the Sharks XV putting on a huge amount of pressure, yet not really managing to capitalise on that. Downey concurs. “The forwards stepped up physically,” he types, “but we’re playing a very expansive game and we didn’t capitalise on some of those opportunities. This weekend we camped in the Cheetahs half for quite a while and didn’t get points when we were in their 22. Just basic mistakes.”
The Sharks XV managed to keep the scoreboard ticking over via the boot of Monty Dumond in the first half, although former Lions flyhalf Louis Strydom was not far behind for tFree State and for the most part, the first quarter was a see-sawing battle with the XV holding a slender 3-point lead before hooker Kyle Cooper broke the deadlock with a try on 18 minutes. Dumond’s conversion was good and a further three points by either flyhalf saw the home side go into the break leading 16-9.
The second half was a similarly tight affair which the XV eventually shaded by 10 points to 8. Charl McLeod scored with 20 minutes to go, while Dumond added a second conversion and replacement Jacques Venter a penalty. The Free State team finished the stronger of the two sides, with George Whitehead scoring a try towards the end. The XV did well though to keep the winning margin above 7 and thus ensure that Free State did not move above them on the log. While not a perfect performance, it was a definite improvement on the week before’s result, when the XV lost agonisingly to Western Province at Newlands.
“Our scrums were again solid, but the backs still seem to be finding their feet, combination wise,” Downey reckons, “but we are definitely building every week. The guys are getting more and more confident; we believe in our style of play and are all buying into the plan. Sean is an incredible coach – he just puts that confidence in his players.” Asked if there was any particular facet of the game that went well, Downey is his modest self, “I don’t want to blow my own bubble here, but I think Mike [Rhodes], Skollie [Ndlovu] and I did really well as a loose forward combination.”
The trip home didn’t unfortunately proceed quite as smoothly, with the players’ bus involved in an accident on the highway on the way back. “We were all ok,” says Justin, “but it just didn’t feel real. The three people in the car that hit us died… We were all really shaken up and sorry about that and we send our condolences to their family and friends. It turned out to be a very long night as well – we only got home after 2am.”
Looking ahead to this weekend’s match, when the XV travel to George to face the SWD Eagles, Downey reckons “if we don’t stick to our structure, we could make it a long day for ourselves”. Sharks XV, we’re behind you boys all the way. Just do what you know how to do and the results will look after themselves!
White and black – nothing else matters.Tweet