After two disappointing results, the Cell C Sharks struck back with an emphatic statement of intent when they defeated the visiting Tafel Lager Griquas in a high-scoring and hugely entertaining Carling Currie Cup clash at Jonsson Kings Park.
Speaking after his side’s seven try to three thrilling 47-19 victory, Cell C Sharks head coach Sean Everitt admitted how pleased he was with his team’s resilience under pressure.
“It was a fantastic team effort and I knew the guys would bounce back, this group has a lot of character, they’ve been trying hard over the last two weeks but unfortunately individual errors cost is dearly,” he explained.
With Western Province having defeated Free State in a match played at the same time, the results of both matches has sealed the Cheetahs’ fate and they cannot finish any higher than fifth on the log, effectively having been knocked out of the semi-finals of the tournament.
“There was pressure on us coming into this game, we needed to win with a bonus point and we had a very simple plan in place. The guys executed really well and we managed to gain five log points which puts us through to the semi-finals.”
“The forwards really dominated the Griquas, I thought there were some great performances from certain individuals in the team. Henco Venter was a stand out playing at six for the first time this season with Thembelani Bholi not far behind as well as Sikhumbuzo Notshe. I thought JJ van der Mescht played really, really well and hats off to Michael Kumberai, after getting a lot of criticism and the tight five battling, they managed to put together a good performance.
Given that the Cell C Sharks experienced difficulties at the set-piece in the previous two games, the way the forwards responded in this match shows their commitment to righting any areas of concern.
“It was really pleasing for them because they wanted to bounce back and they’ve worked exceptionally hard in trying to rectify the errors.”
Someone else under the spotlight – not for any reason other than to watch a world class player back in action in his first start after a long injury lay-off – was fullback Aphelele Fassi who Everitt felt also deserving of praise.
“Aphelele brings a lot of energy to the team, he’s a real livewire, dangerous from the back and he showed a massive improvement from last week’s return to play. That try of his at the end shows what talent this gentleman possesses, he’s an amazing guy and certainly brings x-factor to the team. We’re really happy with where we are with him.”
Another young player who certainly took his opportunity was Fez Mbatha, getting his first start at hooker and showing his willingness to fight on the big stage.
“Fez had a big role to play, our tight five has been under the pump and I thought he had an outstanding game,” Everitt said. “Just like most of the team actually, there were stand-out players from every aspect.
“One must commend Curwin Bosch’s kicking display. Is tactical kicks put us in good positions on the field and the forwards were able to finish it off.”
Praising his team’s effort, Everitt added that, “It’s a special bunch of guys, they’re really close and there’s a good brotherhood within this group. They wanted to right the wrongs of the previous two weeks and while it wasn’t an easy week for them with all the interruptions, they must be commended on their character.
“They go out and try their best every week. I know sometimes things don’t go their way and they don’t get the results. Although you can’t win every game you play in sport, adversity is all part of the growth process and I must commend them for the way they stood up to the pressure to get a bonus point.”