The Cell C Sharks broke our duck in South African derbies when we comprehensively outplayed the Emirates Lions in every department in a scintillating Vodacom Super Rugby performance on Friday evening.
The ocassion was a hugely significant one – the record-breaking milestone for Beast Mtawarira who played in his 157th Vodacom Super Rugby match to become the most capped South African player ever – and the players delivered a resounding tribute to the man who has become legend.
“This was very satisfying, fantastic and the boys are very happy,” said Cell C Sharks head coach Robert du Preez after the match.
“I’m just so pleased we did it for Beastie; the boys really wanted to do it for him, he’s an amazing person, the most humble person you could ever hope to meet and an inspiration for all his team-mates. At the end of the day, the boys played for him.”
With the Vodacom Bulls losing a second successive home game (to the Jaguares after a defeat from the Chiefs in their previous match at Loftus) and the DHL Stormers failing in their third tour match in Australasia, this time to the Reds, the Cell C Sharks were able to climb the ladder substantially, now leading the South African Conference with 21 points, three ahead of the second-placed Vodacom Bulls. The bonus point win also elevated us to third place on the overall log, behind the Crusaders and Rebels.
“While no performance is ever a complete one, that was pretty good; it’s been a long time coming,” du Preez explained.
Everything seemed to click as the team never looked in danger of losing a game they were tipped to lose against the then pace-setters in the conference, and playing away from home. A clinical performance in every aspect, matched by a wonderfully disciplined effort gave us the impetus for a crucial and praise-worthy win.
“I thought our set-pieces were outstanding and we didn’t give away any silly penalties which is something we’ve worked really hard on; the boys’ discipline was fantastic.”
There was a man of the match performance from Curwin Bosch mixed with some exciting play from his fellow backs, and strong, committed performances from the forwards, both young and old, all under pressure to perform and all stepping up.
Du Preez was loathe to single out any individuals in a wonderful team effort, saying: “They all played well: from 1 to 23. We know what we’re working towards, we have a great plan. In last week’s game against the Vodacom Bulls, all the stats went our way, except for the result, so I knew a performance like this was going to happen some time.”
The win against South African opposition came after three local derby losses and the coach admitted that this performance was the culmination of a lot of hard work.
“There’s so much that’s been said about the derbies, the Emirates Lions are a quality side, but everything we worked on over the last seven weeks came together in this game. The rain played a big role, we knew if we played a good territory game, they’d try to run from their 22 and we managed to counter that.”
For now, the great quest is to not just to follow the standard of play set in this match but to improve, the coach warning that there is even more to come.
“We don’t want to maintain this standard, we want to get better! It’s reset on Monday, back to basics and we’re going to shift the focus to the Jaguares. But we’ll enjoy this win.”