Although it’s not technically a knock-out match this Saturday when the Cell C Sharks host the Jaguares at JONSSON KINGS PARK on Saturday, the clash will determine our continued presence in the Vodacom Super Rugby tournament.
Daniel du Preez had to undergo a medical examination after leaving the field against the Stormers on Saturday, but the good news is that he has suffered no serious consequences that had him stretchered from the field. He has a pinched nerve on the neck and if he comes through training this week, he will be available for selection against the Jaguares.
With his father and coach Robert du Preez seeing to his son, assistant coach Dick Muir fronted up in the post match media conference.
He addressed how, in the first half, the Cell C Sharks team appeared a little flat when the Stormers scored three tries, but the second half was a big improvement and got to the point where a win was certainly not out of the question.
“We’ve had this problem all season, we’ve been inconsistent, we play one good game, one bad one, then a good half followed by a bad half,” Muir explained.
“I think there is some work that needs to be done to find out what is contributing to that.”
Where did he think the game won and lost?
“I thought upfront we went alright, it was a combination of errors. We made 14 handling errors which is just uncharacteristic for our guys. We didn’t get front foot ball and a lot of credit must go to the Stormers, they defended incredibly well.
“So we couldn’t get our offloads going or build momentum and I think it was just a combination of going wide to wide and not getting momentum to play off, as well as the errors we made. We wanted to exploit possible space out wide but the mistakes we made.”
He explained that building scoreboard pressure and keep it ticking on was the plan because they knew the Stormers were going into this game with nothing to lose. “But they managed to reverse any pressure we applied and had us under pressure. It wasn’t ideal.”
The Cell C Sharks loss to the Stormers means that this weekend’s final round of Vodacom Super Rugby fixtures places us in a position where not only do we need to beat the Jaguares, but also hope for other results to go our way.
With the Cell C Sharks nearest rival for a place in the top eight and entry to the knock-out rounds, the Rebels traveling to the south of New Zealand’s South Island, we need them to lose and us to defeat the Jaguares to be assured of a wild card entry into the quarter-finals.
With the Rebels losing to the Reds this past weekend, it keeps our hopes alive following the disappointing defeat to the Stormers on Saturday. A win will ensure we leap-frog the Melbourne side and finish in eighth place and automatic entry into the qualifiers.
“We kind of shot ourselves in the foot there,” he admitted after the loss.
“Our destiny was in our own hands a bit, but now we’ve left it up to another team losing and us getting past the Jaguares.”
Should both those events come to pass, the Cell C Sharks will then take on last year’s winners, the Crusaders in Christchurch, having topped the log. But, not an insurmountable challenge as Muir explained.
“We’ve been particularly good against the New Zealand sides, so I don’t think that will be too daunting. But if you look at the history of the competition, the travel is against you if you make the play-offs.
“But we have a team that on the day can beat anyone, we just have to face the next one first then worry about the Crusaders after that.”
In other injury news, Jean-Luc du Preez has an MCL sprain (suffered against the Lions) and his rehab is on track. Sbu Nkosi sprained his ankle against the Stormers and is undergoing scans to determine the extent of the injury.