Durban - A timely tonic for the South African challenge in the United Rugby Championship came in the form of the Sharks’ 27-13 win in Swansea on Friday night where they grounded the Ospreys with a wonderfully energised performance.
Coach Sean Everitt was understandably all smiles after a win that ended a three-match losing streak in which the Sharks got pummelled first by the Bulls in the Currie Cup final and then by Munster and the Glasgow Warriors, although in the latter game there was a strong resurgence from the Durbanites in the second half, and against the Ospreys they picked up where they left off.
“This game was also going to be a big ask for us considering they had 11 internationals and four British and Irish Lions in their ranks — including Welsh legend Alun Wyn Jones — so I am very proud of how the guys took the game to the Ospreys and stuck to our plan very well,” Everitt said.
The Sharks knew that the Ospreys kick more than any other URC team and love to feed off opposition mistakes forced by theiR strangulation game, but the Sharks played them at their own game and kicked back to them effectively, and it was the Sharks that counter attacked well from a plethora of errors from the home team, who struggled under the high ball.
There was excellent game management from playmakers Ruan Pienaar, Boeta Chamberlain and fullback Anthony Volmink.
“It was a collective effort from the management, the coaching staff as well as the players,” Everitt said. “We prepared really well for this game and then the boys delivered on the field. Our kicking game worked superbly but that could only happen with a solid platform from the forwards, and they gave us that — they were very good indeed.”
It was impressive that the Sharks forwards did not lose focus after a difficult opening ten minutes in which the Irish referee penalised then four times for alleged indiscretions at the breakdowns, and that allowed Ospreys flyhalf Gareth Anscombe to kick his team into a 6-0 lead.
At that point, few would have predicted that the Sharks would score the next 24 points in the game as they settled into the refereeing style of Irishman Frank Murphy and Chamberlain swung into action with his hat trick of drop goals while wings Marnus Potgieter and Werner Kok finished off excellent team tries.
“I am very proud of how Boeta played,” Everitt said of the 22-year-old former Paarl Boys High pupil. “It was only his third URC game and fourth international game (he played against the Hurricanes early last year) , and he managed the game really well and was the deserved Man of the Match, so we are very happy for him.”
Everitt would also be relieved because the flyhalf position had been problematic for some time, with Curwin Bosch having gone off the boil in the Currie Cup, Lionel Cronje coming and going as a loan player from Toyota Verblitz, and Chamberlain still finding his feet at this level.
Everitt felt a strong team performance was due.
“For us it is always about improving every week. Over here, we knew it would take time for us to adapt to the refereeing as well as to the type of rugby that needs to be played,” he said.
“This win will certainly lift morale — I am pleased that we are not going into the last week of the tour with the pressure of being winless — and we will have a few days rest and then it is back to work on Monday to see if we can turn Cardiff over next Saturday.”