THE old saying “there’s no place like home” couldn’t be more fitting as an upbeat Sharks squad returned to training at King’s Park yesterday afternoon.
The group practised in some beautiful autumn weather and an air of quiet confidence could be felt from players and coaches alike.
Backline coach Sean Everitt was on hand to review a tour which had fairly mixed results. The Sharks lost their first three games before coming right in their final match in Australasia, beating the Reds 21-14 in Brisbane on Friday.
While one out of four isn’t a positive statistic, Everitt took solace in the fact that the team remained upbeat throughout the tour, which was evident in their steadily improving performances as the weeks went by.
“We didn’t start the tour off well and we were really disappointed with our game against the Highlanders. We were in with a shout until early in the second half when they ran away with it. But the guys knuckled down, they worked well, the energy levels were good at training and the team certainly showed improvement from week to week. So we are happy with that and that we finished the tour off on a good note — which showed the guys had remained positive over a very difficult time,” Everitt said.
Even with the hassle of constantly having to change their starting XV from week to week due to injuries, Everitt said the camp was upbeat and couldn’t have trained any harder while they were away.
Nevertheless they had to settle for narrow defeats to the Hurricanes and Waratahs despite improved performances which proved to be frustrating.
“We prepared well every week, but unfortunately unforced errors on both defence and attack let us down at stages so it was either soft tries we leaked or opportunities that we didn’t take — we had a few against the Highlanders where if we had taken them the result would have been different. It was small little things but that’s the nature of this competition — it’s fine little margins. If you don’t execute correctly, you’re going to be on the receiving end,” Everitt said.
But the positive atmosphere in the camp as well as some changes in personnel sparked the Sharks’ attacking play — something which they have been trying to do all season. The backline coach said journeyman flyhalf Lionel Cronje had been the catalyst.
“The guys have got better from week to week and I think the number of unforced errors has diminished over the last four weeks which means you get more continuity. The guys have enjoyed playing with ball in hand a little bit more and I think Lionel Cronje has played well over the last few weeks,” Everitt said.
“He certainly inspired our attack and we are very happy as far as that is concerned. Our game management against the Reds on the weekend was the best it’s been over the last few weeks as well.”
“We kicked at the right times, we ran the ball at the right times and when we kicked we were able to find space behind them which put them under pressure,” Everitt said.
That pressure proved to be decisive as the Sharks finally broke a six-match losing record.
“That win was great for us purely from the fact that the guys have been putting the effort every week and maybe not getting the reward they deserved. From that point of view, a positive result always helps; it takes off a bit of pressure for a couple of days at least,” Everitt said.
On the injury front, Everitt confirmed that Frans Steyn and Stephan Lewies were going for scans this week. Lewies was at training, but had his leg in a cast while Steyn was not present. Ryan Kankowski trained having stayed at home throughout the tour to rest.
Meanwhile Cobus Reinach and Pat Lambie are not expected back in action for at least another week.
The Sharks host the Rebels in Durban on Friday. Kickoff is at 7.10 pm