Defence Wins Games

While it may seem like a strange thing to say because, after all, tries win games, but ultimately the pressure brought to bear on Toyota Free State secured the Cell C Sharks a stunning victory at JONSSON KINGS PARK on Saturday.

Cell C Sharks head coach Sean Everitt admitted after the game how pleased he was with the effort and spirit shown by his team, particularly the defensive effort that Free State battled to overcome.

“We put ourselves into a good position early in the game but let things slip a bit and didn’t have much ball late in the first half,” he explained in his overall assessment. “But after we sorted a few things out at half-time, the boys showed some incredible character to pull through in the end, especially at 20-all.” 

He pointed to how things had gone differently previously under similar circumstances and how the team has progressed.

“Last week against the Pumas we were under the pump in the second half and we capitulated, so I was very pleased with the way the guys held up at the end against Free State.”

Looking at both the team’s effort and execution on defence, he admitted that this was a huge part of driving the victory.

“The way we defended was outstanding. The forwards really stood up and full marks to the bench when they came on, I thought they did exceptionally well in that department.”

Sucking the defence in at close quarters and showing great patience and accuracy to hold on to the ball before exploiting space out wide proved to be a positive tactic that brought great reward against Free State.

“We felt that over the past few weeks we had taken the ball wide too early so we wanted to have a more direct approach because the space is always there, it’s just about being patient with the ball before getting it there,” Everitt explained. “We did create opportunities and I’m happy that the guys managed to finish them off.

“We also knew that if we put pressure on them, we could force mistakes and a good example is the try that Apelele Fassi scored. We wanted to put line speed on them to take their time and space away and I thought we did that pretty well at times.”

Everitt felt that scoring at half-time was a turning point in the game.

“That came from some good defence work and I don’t think the Cheetahs will be happy with that. I think it was a bit of a game-changer. We had the ball for the first 10 minutes and I don’t think we saw it again due to their good game management. We didn’t get any territory and with that we didn’t get any possession either, so to score that try against the run of play was obviously very important for us and probably somewhat lucky.

“But as they say, you make your own luck.”