Durban - Sharks' coach Brad Macleod-Henderson has admitted that indiscipline was a "very big" factor in their shock Currie Cup loss to the Griquas in Durban on Saturday.
Francois Brummer kicked a drop-goal after the siren had sounded to help the visitors secure an upset 21-18 win, a result that was well deserved at Kings Park.
The defending champions conceded 16 penalties through the game and were dominated at the scrum, while the men from the northern Cape were solid in defence.
"Discipline was a very big issue," Macleod-Henderson said. "Add the free kicks on top of that and it [the penalty count] is a very sorry stat.
"We'll have a look at the video, which will shed some light on what went wrong [at the scrum].
"In the first half, our breakdown wasn't good enough. They disrupted us there, we didn't get any quick ball and we never got going. We just made far too many handling errors.
"So we're very disappointed. It's a loss at home, so next week we really need to get a result against the Free State."
Prop Thomas du Toit's try four minutes from time looked to have earned the hosts a draw, but Brummer, under pressure from the home defence, kept his nerve to slot the drop-goal.
Fellow front-rower Lourens Adriaanse had scored an earlier try for the Sharks, but fullback Gouws Prinsloo kicked six penalties for the Griquas, who inflicted a second consecutive loss on the Durbanites and fifth defeat from their last 10 meetings.
The Sharks did have their moments at the start of the second half, but were constantly repelled by the Griquas' defence.
Macleod-Henderson added: "At the start of the second half we had a great opportunity when we had a three or four man overlap, another pick and go, [but] we ended up turning over ball when there was probably an easy try on the outside."
However, the Sharks' boss, whose side stayed fourth on the overall log but now lie nine points behind Western Province, felt there were still positives to be taken from the game.
"We are nearly there. At times we looked really good, the guys are working hard, the guys are still learning.
"There are a lot of good things," he said. "We just need to sharpen up on a few areas. When we get that right we will be a difficult side to contend with.
"The set-piece looked better than last week, I'm very excited about Thomas du Toit and at times the backline looked good.
"But the number of errors we are making puts pressure on us. If we are building pressure on the opposition, we sometimes relieve the pressure quite easily, so it's an area we will have to look at."
Last week the Sharks were beaten by the Pumas and Macleod-Henderson admitted the 2014 competition was extremely tough.
"The Pumas and Griquas are quality sides. They're difficult to wear down, they have proved they deserve to be here at this level," he added.