The Cell C Sharks might have missed out on a Vodacom Super Rugby semi-final when we went down to the Crusaders in the quarter-finals on Saturday, but this young, talented team has yet to reach their potential.
It was always going to be a huge challenge against a Crusaders side that know how to win. They are the reigning champions, have lost just twice this season and their victory on Saturday was their 13th in a row this year.
Head coach Robert du Preez was disappointed with the result, but cautioned about the potential of this team.
“We weren’t quite there and that was the story of our season,” he said after the match.
“We just can’t keep patient, I guess that’s the sign of a young, growing team. But I’m really proud of the boys, they put a big effort in and for that, I’m proud of them.”
In discussing the match, he highlighted the Crusaders near-perfect all-round game.
“The Crusaders are an excellent attacking and defending side and I can’t see any other team beating them. Their set-piece is so good, lineout-wise particularly, they scored tries from that and you have to front up physically.”
With the travel factor thrown in for good measure, there was always going to be the threat of jetlag having an effect later in the game and he admitted that around the three-quarter mark, there were some heavy legs. Two further tries were conceded in this period when the Crusaders managed to push the result out of our reach to bring a sad end to the season.
“I thought we were getting a little bit tired, the boys were definitely tired.
Captain Ruan Botha paid tribute to the opposition, like his coach highlighting their attack and defence as simply too good.
“Hats off to the Crusaders, they pressured the one-on-one defenders. Championship games are won on defence, we missed a few crucial one-on-one tackles and that cost us.
“This whole season we played well against New Zealand sides, we knew the Crusaders would be a huge challenge, that’s why they were top of the log. They played great rugby all season and their defence was strong against us and their attacking play excellent, they kept running into holes getting into space.”
Like his coach, there were words for this young, exciting team.
“I am very excited for The Sharks brand, we have some young talent coming though, we just have to stick together, work hard for the rest of the year come back next season and hopefully do a lot better.”