Sharks coach hails defence
Brad MacLeod-Henderson (Gallo Images)
Bloemfontein - Sharks coach Brad McLeod-Henderson says he is a happy man after his side recovered from a half-time deficit to beat the Free State Cheetahs 18-15 in their Currie Cup encounter in the Free State stadium on Friday evening.
The visitors trailed 15-6 at the break and not only came back to score 12 points for the victory, but kept the Cheetahs at bay with some excellent defence.
That helped place the Durban side at the top of the Currie Cup log, pending the results of the weekend's remaining games on Saturday.
The Sharks take on the Blue Bulls next week and McLeod-Henderson said he was delighted that his team can do so on the back of two victories in as many weeks.
"We are obviously very happy with the two wins we got the last couple of weeks," he said after the game.
"Even more important for us is that we are growing and developing as a team. Every week we are getting better and better.
"We have got a great mix. We've got a couple of older players and some young guys which is great. We have a nice mix of experience and youth.
McLeod-Henderson added that he was pleased with the role the Sharks' replacements played in their recovery in the second half and the coach lauded his charges for their efforts against a Cheetahs side that had something to prove in their first home game of the competition.
"We are very happy with the impact the players from the replacement bench made," he said.
"A guy like Cobus Reinach help set up our second try and someone like Craig Burden also played his part. It was a blow to lose SP Marais so early in the match but Jaco did very well for us.
"Our defence was very good, specially in the second half. We showed fantastic character. The game was on the line until the 80th minute and our defence played a vital role in securing the victory for us."
Trailing by nine points at half-time, the Sharks opted not to make the mistake of changing their approach to the attacking play of the Bloemfontein outfit.
"We had a chat at half-time. We had done some good things in the first half and just needed to build on that," McLeod-Henderson said.
"We knew we had to keep the Cheetahs out with our defence and that we needed to keep thinking on our feet. That is what we did in the second 40 minutes."
The Cheetahs host Griquas next weekend, but will need to get back to the drawing board after losing two games in succession by not closing their early lead in the second half.
"We made to many unforced errors," Cheetahs coach Naka Drotske said of the game.
"Full credit to the Sharks for their defence. They shifted all over the park and we struggled. We should have played more direct. In the first half we scored two tries by playing more direct. For some reason we played more laterally in the second half and that cost us the game."
"We are glad for the one point we got, because that is going to make the difference in the end. If you do lose, it is important that you pick up at least one point. In all three games we had a good lead. And two of those three we lost in the last minute."