Durban - The Cell C Sharks dropped out of the Currie Cup at the semi-final stage following a 50-20 defeat against the Golden Lions at Ellis Park last Saturday, but coach Brad MacLeod-Henderson refused to find excuses.
“We’re obviously very disappointed,” he told Sharks website editor Michael Marnewick. “But you have to take your hat off to the Lions, they played better than us on the day. We had a few opportunities and probably didn’t take them. Our set-piece struggled a bit and we fell off too many tackles, so it was a disappointing day.”
The Lions were Super Rugby team playing a Sharks side missing several players to the Springboks but MacLeod-Henderson refused to use that as an excuse.
“We don’t want to look for excuses. We went up there and gave it a good shot and two weeks before we got the better of them at home. But on the day, we unfortunately didn’t play well enough to get the result we wanted.
“They were simply better than us in certain areas. They really dominated us at the set-piece and that pretty much filtered through. We fell off quite a few tackles which gave them some momentum. They’re a good side, if you give them momentum, they score a lot of tries. They’re the team to have scored the most tries in the competition, because when they’re on a roll, they finish; and they did that on Saturday. Conversely, when we had our opportunities - admittedly not as many as we would have liked - we weren’t clinical enough in talking them.”
The Currie Cup campaign was a topsy-turvy one for his team, one where they had to start with an almost completely new team, coaching structure and game plan, just a week before the start of the competition. Although they didn’t go all the way, there were still positives to take out which bode well for the future.
“Looking back over the campaign, it’s a bit of a mixed bag,” MacLeod-Henderson said in reviewing the season passed. “There was some fantastic rugby and at times we didn’t play to our full potential. All-in-all, the highlights overshadow the lowlights. Fourteen players made their debut for the Sharks which was great.
“Guys like Cameron Wright and Thomas du Toit who were at school last year played pretty much most of the Currie Cup. We also had Andre Esterhuizen who was at school two years ago. They showed what wonderful talents they are. Tera Mtembu’s performances on the field and as captain were amazing.
“The guys enjoyed the rugby they were playing and scored some great tries, that’s always pleasing. It was also nice to see the performances of a couple of warhorses like Jacques Botes and Marco Wentzel, still showing that they have it in them to play at this level.”
Many of the young talents that came through will be added to the team’s Super Rugby squad next year as reward for fulfilling the coaches’ faith in them. Their delivery (and beyond) of the expectations put on their young shoulders giving them a shot at higher honours.
“The Currie Cup tournament is used as a development platform for Super Rugby, and for the tournament we get our Springboks back, a few of the guys from Japan too. So, combined with all the guys who did well in the Currie Cup, so we’re really looking forward to that competition.”
With the season now over, the players will take a mental and physical break (but keep up a physical programme in the meantime to freshen up, before regrouping on November 17.