The Cell C Sharks flew back to Durban on Saturday following a four match tour to Australia and New Zealand with mixed emotions, particularly out of the final match’s result against the Hurricanes.
In the players’ heart of hearts they will rue this as a missed opportunity, having played their hearts out only for the Hurricanes to come from a losing position to grasp a last ditch, injury-time converted try to wrestle the result which looked to have been ours.
As to mixed emotions, the loss was devastating, but certainly the effort that went into a match that should have been a victory over arguably the best team in New Zealand was cause for some celebration.
The tour started out in a disappointing manner in Australia, continued in the second week, but come the ‘hop over the ditch’, traveling to New Zealand, a mental and physical shift in gears took the Cell C Sharks back to winning ways in quite the most exciting and emphatic fashion against the Blues, before falling in the 84th minute to the Hurricanes.
“It was a step up from the previous week’s game against the Blues and I’m very happy with that,” said head coach Robert du Preez on his return to Durban on Saturday night.
“I thought the guys did everything to win the game, but in the end, it was really disappointing to lose because the boys threw everything into it.”
It was a tour where the team really started gelling, particularly on the tougher New Zealand leg, and the players individually and collectively really came to the fore. The coach consistently pointed out that if there was effort shown, he had no reason to criticise the team, and he got that, in bucketfuls against the New Zealanders.
“I thought everyone played well and the bench players were also valuable contributors when they came on.”
His disappointments were allowing the Hurricanes back into the game, particularly near the end when we had a good lead that required two scores from them.
“We leaked two soft tries that I’m not happy about,” he added, “and we should have closed the game out in the end, that’s a negative to me because we had every opportunity to do that and we didn’t.
“Overall, although we lost, it was a very positive effort from the boys and I’m proud of them.”
Although this was a loss, it was a huge boost to our confidence, and two wonderful efforts on consecutive weeks on New Zealand soil bodes well for the coming week’s when the team will look to prove just what a force we are in Vodacom Super Rugby.
This Saturday we host the Vodacom Bulls at JONSSON KINGS PARK at 5.15pm in our first home derby match, followed by the Stormers the following weekend before a much-needed bye.