Head Coach Robert du Preez, although disappointed with the Cell C Sharks Vodacom Super Rugby loss to the Vodacom Bulls at Loftus on Saturday, admitted that there is fighting spirit in this team that can’t be coached.
“I thought the boys, to have come back from a huge deficit, and be in the game right to the death, I have to commend them on that,” he said in his post match analysis.
Discussing discipline in the lead-up to the game and pointing out just how important it would be in the outcome of the game, he admitted that the team paid dearly for the yellow card received in the first half.
“That card was very costly,” he said. “Discipline let us down, at 17 points down, a deficit like that was always going to be hard to come back from.”
Looking further, he added:
“I also thought our exits weren’t great early on, not kicking the ball into touch three times put us under pressure. Those two issues weren’t great ways to start the game.”
Although the coach was happy with the intensity and physicality the team brought to the game, it was on attack where he felt things didn’t quite go according to plan.
“It’s a South African derby and I thought the boys, especially the pack, were really physical and they were dominant. I think the intensity was there but we battled to get into our shape, maybe passing the ball away too quickly in those one-off pass situations. We couldn’t get our structure going nicely on attack.”
Although the second yellow card hurt, it came at a time when the team were fighting back, only to face further difficulties.
“We were right in it, right to the end, but the scrum where we were penalised, that changed the way the game was going.”
In the first round clash, the Vodacom Bulls got away with more, exploiting space better, whereas in this game, the coach felt that at times the Cell C Sharks managed to contain the opposition better, which prevented any chance the Bulls would have liked to stretch their lead.
“I’m not happy with our defence in space, especially in the first half we weren’t great, we could have done better. Certainly in the second half we were a lot better.”
At times the Bulls reverted to a kicking game which has not been as prevalent under coach John Mitchell as before, although du Preez didn’t find anything strange about that.
“The got reward from that in the first round game, we knew they could do that, they’re a well-enough balanced side that can play any type of game.”
Although confidence could take a knock after the loss, the coach said that there is no reason to panic.
“We have two games left before the June break, against the Chiefs at home, then the Jaguares away, and we’re very much in the race.
“It’s all to play for and I have every confidence in this team. To come back from a 17 point deficit showed massive fighting spirit.
“This is a great team and we’re going to go a long way.”