The Cell C Sharks loss in the Currie Cup final at Growthpoint KINGS PARK should not define the team, but instead we should be looking at the many highs, accomplishments and developments made over the course of the season.
Reflecting on the match, Cell C Sharks head coach Robert du Preez described the game as one of two halves. We had led from start to a stage in the second half when Province found their groove and started to assert themselves. A three try blitz on either side of half-time snatched momentum in their favour.
“I thought we really played well in that first 40 minutes but it was a big momentum swing when they scored just before half time,” he said after the game. “It was a game of two halves and in the second half we couldn’t get our hands on the ball, we couldn’t get any possession and that was really tough.
“The other thing that Province really did was the momentum they created, they got over the gain-line and from there it’s really difficult to defend. They did that really effectively.”
The scrums were an area of particular concern, starting with the very first one and we never fully recovered.
“They have a great front row and we just battled to recover from them applying that type of pressure on us,” the coach explained. “Province put a lot of pressure on us, starting early on in the game with their scrums and I think that took its toll in the second half.
He admitted that game-management was the difference between the teams. “Western Province controlled the game a lot better, their game-management was a lot better than ours, there’s no doubt about that.”
Defence wasn’t quite up to the Cell C Sharks’ usual standard, conceding four tries in the game, with du Preez admitting that the missed tackles were costly. “You have to make your tackles and if you don’t, especially your one-on-one tackles, you allow them to get momentum with half-hearted defence.”
There was also pride for his son Robert junior who performed admirably for Western Province and controlled the game well for the eventual winners.
“We’re very pleased that he’s coming to The Sharks next year with our stocks low at flyhalf. In saying that, we do have some exciting young flyhalves here but he will be a big asset for us.
“But well done to John Dobson and his team, they’ve done a fantastic job. Half-way through the season it wasn’t going great for them but they played good, winning rugby towards the latter part of the season.”
Captain Ruan summed it all up fairly succinctly, saying: “The saddest things was how hard we worked throughout the season, then dropped ourselves in the final. The season counts for nothing if you get to the final but drop the ball. Western Province played rugby in the right areas and that’s where we got it wrong, that’s what cost us.”
In analysing the season, du Preez admitted that it was a painful end to the competition, but certainly plenty worth cherishing and a bright future to look ahead to.
“I said to the guys in the changeroom afterwards that I know how disappointed we are and how disappointed our fans are, but they have really put in a lot of effort, they’ve worked incredibly hard and I’m proud of the way they played during the season. Finals are games of small margins but I’m really proud of them.
“I’m very pleased with how the youngsters stepped up, we have a great squad and that bodes well for the future, for Super Rugby. And we have guys coming back and joining us.
“We’ve turned this around, it’s certainly been a great season apart from losing the final.”