Bismarck praises Sharks pack
Durban - The tightness of the contest between the Cell C Sharks and Highlanders was testament to the effort from both sides, the home side’s set-piece dominating and the visitors’ backline attack almost doing the job for them.
There were six tries scored in all – three apiece – but the dangerous attack from the New Zealanders could so easily have rained on the Sharks’ parade, reports Sharks website editor Michael Marnewick
As it was, the visitors had no answer to the scrumming power from the home team and that was the platform from which the victory was built.
Sharks captain, Bismarck du Plessis complimented the Highlanders for the fantastic opposition they put up against his side in Saturday’s Super Rugby quarter-final match at Kings Park.
"I must say, the Highlanders ran us to pieces at stages," he said after the match.
"Their outside backs and whole backline were absolutely amazing.
"We know we will have to work hard on our defence if we want to advance in this competition.
"But we were really up for it.
"They humiliated us the last time they were here, they were absolutely amazing again, they played good rugby."
Assessing the value of the pack effort, he complimented his team-mates for their wonderful effort.
"I must commend Jannie as well as Thomas du Toit (pictured), he’s just a 19 year old, as well as the front row substitutes when they came on, Dale Chadwick and Lourens Adriaanse, they kept up the intensity.
"But it was an eight man effort and the whole pack needs to be recognised."
While the game plan mostly worked and they were clinical where they wanted to be, the Highlanders tried their best to play an open, expansive game to try break the Sharks defences.
They were rewarded with three tries from exciting play, but ultimately, they were on the back foot at scrum time especially, and paid the price for not being able to match the home side up front.
"We really wanted to have a set-piece game and not give them ball to run at us with," Du Plessis explained.
"We controlled the set-pieces and didn’t lose a lineout or scrum so I’m proud of the effort from the team."
Highlanders captain Ben Smith was proud of his team for coming so close in the end, but ultimately could not eclipse the home side.
"I thought we played good rugby and moved the ball around, but we were up against a very good side and they pulled it back in the end. I thought we did ourselves justice in this match, but sad we didn’t win."
Looking ahead to the next challenge, the Super Rugby semi-final against the Crusaders in Christchurch, the Sharks skipper admitted that their historic first-ever win in the pool stages over a side that had never been defeated at home by the Durbanites was cause for confidence.
"We do take confidence from beating the Crusaders in the pool match in Christchurch, I really hope all of South Africa is behind us and they cheer us on.
"Hopefully we are back here in two weeks’ time."