Cape Town - Sharks head coach Robert du Preez hailed his players' character after they launched a stunning fightback to beat the Golden Lions on Saturday.
The Durban-based outfit's match against the Golden Lions in Johannesburg could have been calamitous given the situation they were in but when calmness was needed, that’s exactly what they showed to take control of the game and come back from the dead to claim a 47-31 win.
The Lions, down to 14 men for the last half hour of the game, appeared to panic as the Sharks wrestled control back in their favour. With half an hour’s play remaining, the Sharks were 31-5 down and seemingly in a massive hole too deep to emerge from.
They fought back when Jacques Vermeulen scored their second try, was kicked in the face in the process, and the Lions lost their hooker Robbie Coetzee who was red carded for his indiscretion.
And although they were in serious trouble at half-time, Du Preez admitted that there were no stern words for the team.
“I didn’t really have harsh words, but everything had gone wrong for us in the first half, we just couldn’t get going and had made way too many errors,” he explained after the match.
“We needed to sort out our set-pieces which hadn’t functioned all that well.
“That try we scored just before half-time was crucial, we really needed that to give the guys some belief. That was truly a fairy-tale second half.
“It was fantastic to win here, a lot of guys haven’t ever before, it was really pleasing and it gives the team a lot of belief.”
Talking about the red card, he said: "It definitely changed the way the game was going, it’s tough to play with 14 players. At that time, we needed to get into the Lions half, especially at scrum-time because we were really dominant then; we needed territory and possession, which we did."
Finishing strongly for teams not used to playing on the Highveld is rare, and given how much work needed to be done – and was – is testament to the Sharks' fighting spirit and fitness when they looked to be dead and buried at 31-5 down.
“We did finish strongly, we scored 42 points in the second half, we had a fantastic second half and that’s testament to the players’ conditioning," added Du Preez.
“I said to the boys in my chat to them before the game, that winning takes a lot of talent and hard work, but to win three games in eight days takes character, and that’s what the boys have shown.
“That’s the only real injury, although the boys are going to be very sore. But we do have a nice break now.”