One loss in three in the first month of the Vodacom Super Rugby season does not herald a crisis and the Cell C Sharks have the perfect opportunity to strike back when we take on the Vodacom Bulls on Saturday.
Reflecting on the loss to the DHL Stormers, Cell C Sharks assistant coach Braam van Straaten admits that, “We weren’t on top of our game. We defended really well but got into trouble not handling their kicking game very well. They kicked 33 times which is a lot for Vodacom Super Rugby.
“We made some judgment errors and there were lessons learnt from that.”
An area that the team will not be shying away from in conversations this week is the penalty count and the repercussions from that. In a game where both teams scored a solitary try, discipline proved to be the difference.
“Our discipline wasn’t good enough,” van Straaten explains. “We had two yellow cards in the first half and that put us under pressure because now you’re defending with 14 men for 20 minutes.
“Although we played well in the second half, we just didn’t get the reward. There was a definite step up in energy, the replacements had a big impact.”
After the disappointment subsides, there is always time for reflection and an opportunity to identify and then right the wrongs.
“It was a big learning curve for everybody,” he admits. “You need to be able to handle the pressure better and I think our game management needs to be better. We still want to go out there and play attacking rugby but we have to be accurate in the way we go about it and make sure we build.”
Not for a moment does he believe that the team can’t turn things around against the Vodacom Bulls at Loftus, despite the major challenge they pose.
“One loss doesn’t define our season. We’re a team that’s building towards something big and we know where we’re going. We need to be better in certain areas, discipline-wise we must improve and we need to capitalise on the moments when we are in the gold zone. When we have teams under pressure, we need to make it count.”
The Vodacom Bulls beat the DHL Stormers in week one and the Lions in week three – both fairly comprehensively – and van Straaten admits that this won’t be easy.
“The Vodacom Bulls are a good side, we need to be on our game to put them under pressure and hopefully we will do that for long periods in the game. It comes down to decision-making, there’s a lot more to it than just playing.
“The Vodacom Bulls have played well, let’s give them the credit they’re due. But we know what we can do and what we can bring to the party and we know it’s going to be a huge, physical battle. But it’s not only about being physical, we need to be smart as well.
“It’s going to be a good challenge.”