Sharks defence as pleasing as attack
Cape Town - While an impressive tally of six tries were scored against the Southern Kings in the Sharks’ opening Super Rugby match, only one try conceded suggests that Sharks defence is featuring just as well.
Defence coach Omar Mouneimne, speaking after the match, was pleased with what he saw.
"We hadn’t had physical contact for two weeks, so we needed a physical hit-out in a real game and get the nerves bled out, to feel like we’re really in the tournament," he explained.
"We needed real bullets fired under real pressure after two warm-up games."
It was a tough, uncompromising first half, with the opening 40 minutes ending with a narrow lead for the Sharks. But they found their feet in the second half and cut loose to march to a 43-8 victory at the end of the match.
"We made it very difficult for ourselves in the first half,” said Mouneimne.
"We needed to adapt quicker to what was happening at the breakdown. We were also a bit messy and could have been a little more accurate. But in saying that, I think it was down to nerves.
“You’re not going to do things perfectly, and at half-time, the talk was about lifting the intensity, about playing at another level and to outpace and outmuscle them and there were signs of that."
The Kings took the lead in front of their home crowd, looking to prove a point.
"Everyone said the Kings would be at their most dangerous in the first few games, and at home, with all the hype and passion and wanting to prove everyone wrong, they had the recipe to hold us out," said Mouneimne.
"Credit to them, they were physical, they brought it to us and had the flow of the game, everything was going their way. But we showed character, I think we absorbed the pressure and went into half-time in the lead."
Mouneimne cautioned that with some young faces in the team, there will always be a period of adaptation to the demands of Super Rugby, especially the pace and physicality that is not at that level in age group rugby where some of the players had previously played.
"We have a youngish team, one that responded in the second half and that’s very pleasing."
But ultimately, for a defence coach, keeping the Kings tryless and scoreless in the second half was testimony to a massive Sharks effort, although he felt that they will improve as the tournament progresses.
"It perhaps wasn’t our best defensive effort; it was brutally physical and ruthless, but we can be better. For a first game though, nerves and adrenalin can contribute to that but going into the Jaguares game, we need to be absolutely spot on because they will be at a very high level physically."