Character-Building Victory

Getting the double over the Vodacom Bulls is particularly rewarding when the second round match was at fortress Loftus where opposition wins are rare enough and the five log points gained are invaluable in the race for the championship.

The Cell C Sharks 29-22 Vodacom United Rugby Championship over the Vodacom Bulls on the weekend was a huge statement, showing the team’s commitment to the jersey.

When Morne Steyn received his red card in the opening quarter of the game, it may have appeared that the Bulls were dead and buried, but they showed enormous resolve to fight back in the game, something Cell C Sharks head coach Sean Everitt admitted when speaking afterwards about the bonus point victory.

“I’ve been involved with teams who have played with 14 men, and less, and won, we knew that teams can get motivated when they’re a man down. The problem for us was when we had that numerical advantage, our discipline let us down so we couldn’t capitalise.

“In saying that, we were also down to 14 men for 30 minutes, so that didn’t help matters. Credit to our guys, they really defended well. The way the Bulls came back at us in the last 10 minutes shows how proud they are at Loftus.”

Everitt admitted that there were anxious moments to negotiate in the coaching box, despite their relatively sizeable lead when the home side started their rearguard action.

“When Grant went off with the score at 26-12, we knew it wasn’t done yet, something we found out at Hollywoodbets Kings Park a couple of weeks ago, and that’s when you need to be accurate in the execution of your set-piece. Those two lost lineouts definitely put us under the pump and those were errors of ours.”

After a difficult two weeks, Everitt’s Cell C Sharks team certainly delivered in a time of adversity.

“People talk about sticking together when you lose, we know we have work-ons and they’re quite obvious, but the character displayed in this game was unbelievable. To keep the Bulls out as they did, by half-time they had already had 11 opportunities in our 22. It was part of our plan not to give them those opportunities and this is where the discipline let us down. But this team shows resolve and certainly are proud.”

As a performance-driven team, the on-field effort and delivery is vital, with the result often a secondary focus, because of the belief that a good performance will deliver the result. In this case, Everitt admitted that there was a shared feeling of contentment.

“It’s both,” he said. “I thought we performed much better than we did last week, if we had gone into this game with the same mindset as the previous week, we would have been in trouble, but the guys showed a tremendous amount of character and defence is all about character. It’s who you are and who you represent when you put your body on the line.

“So yes, the performance was good. Was it a complete performance? By no means, but what it has done is really give the guys belief and it’s important that they enjoy this victory. We haven’t beaten the Bulls at Loftus in some time now. So while it’s important to stick together when you lose, so too when you win because the result is important.”

Saving a word for man of the match Lukhanyo Am, Everitt spoke in glowing terms of his captain, saying, “We have the best centre in the world, that steal at the end shows you and his try just before half-time probably put the Bulls on the back foot because it takes the wind out of your sales when you’ve just scored and then concede a try.

“When he plays 13, he’s probably one of the best players on the field. Even when we played him at 12, and if you go back to the days when he played on the wing for the Kings, he was probably the best player on the field. “I’m totally convinced he’s the real deal. Every time he puts on a Cell C Sharks or Springbok jersey, he just seems to make magic. He’s an unbelievable rugby player.”