There was no respite for the Sharks as they suffered a sixth consecutive Super Rugby defeat this weekend. The Durban outfit were beaten 33-18 by the Waratahs on Saturday morning.
A late Waratahs try off a Sharks knock-on made the score line more flattering to the defending champions – but the Sharks will rue their soft start to the match as well as their inability to capitalise on territory and scoring opportunities in the second half.
Things started off badly for the visitors when they conceded a try in the opening minute. The Waratahs scored straight from a lineout after captain Michael Hooper made the initial line break. Adam Ashley-Cooper finished off the move and many a Sharks fan may have considered turning off their televisions there and then.
But the Sharks tightened up their defence as best they could and played with similar gusto seen a week ago against the Hurricanes. However, they played themselves out of the game — while referee Rohan Hoffmann made matters worse. The match official had a night to forget with a number of questionable decisions marring what was a fairly entertaining match.
Nevertheless, the Sharks were in the fight but soft defence off first phases and unforced errors cost them.
On the flipside, tip your hat to the young halfback pairing of Stefan Ungerer and Lionel Cronje. The former had a great game at scrumhalf — his service was crisp, his kicking from the base accurate and his game management sound for a player who has only a couple of Super Rugby caps to his name.
Cronje was a standout for the Sharks. Once again, his affinity for attacking play showed as he constantly ran the ball right up to the advantage line which created space for his outside backs. His run and offload that saw Frans Steyn score was testament to his positive performance. He also engineered Odwa Ndungane’s try, booting a cross-kick for the wing to gather and score.
It’s just a shame the halfback pair’s final play Z a poor pass from Ungerer saw Cronje drop the ball Z gave the ’Tahs their final try.
Despite the positives, things are dire for the Sharks. Director of rugby Gary Gold is running out of things to say other than apologies and promises of reputation-saving performances. But you can’t help but feel for the Sharks after their most recent loss. They played with pride, but bad luck and missed opportunities had the final say.
Hoffmann’s performance with the whistle dominated the post-match chat and Gold was loath to admit many calls just didn’t go their way.
“It did seem that way but that’s the way the game goes I’m afraid. I just thought the guys hung in there for the full 80. The Waratahs played well and asked questions of us but I thought we were up for those questions and we defended extraordinarily well with one or two mistakes – you’re always going to make mistakes,” Gold said.
“I’m proud of how the guys hung in there, but it was a cruel result at the end of the night. We’ll take it on the chin, we’ve got to stay in this fight, and we’ve got a lot of pride to play for, we’re a very proud union and this is not a great place to be in.”
While Gold was scratching his head in the coaching box, Marco Wentzel was doing a lot of chin-wagging with Hoffmann – trying to figure out his decisions.
“You are always going to be perplexed when things aren’t going your way. I felt like there were a lot of decisions not going our way. I don’t want to moan about the ref, but I felt there were a few calls that could have been referred. If you have the option to refer calls, you should do it, but it is what it is,” the Sharks captain said.
As most coaches will tell you; a referee never changes his decision once it’s been made. After the final whistle blew and the remaining matches were played, the Sharks stayed in 11th place on the log. It could get worse, but luckily it is the final week on tour.
A challenging clash against the resurgent Reds waits. The Brisbane outfit pipped the Rebels 46-29 on Friday night – and Gold certainly took notice.
“There has never been a lack of quality in that Reds team; it’s always been a situation of being careful of them when they click. They did that and we’ve got our work cut out for us in Brisbane. I’d like to believe we wouldn’t have taken them lightly in any case – we’re hardly in a position to take anyone lightly. We’re fighting for pride, to resurrect the last few games and show our supporters how much it will mean to come out with our heads held high. It’s going to be a tough task,” Gold said.
Sharks: 18 (6) Tries: Odwa Ndungane, Frans Steyn.
Conversions: Frans Steyn (1)
Penalties: Frans Steyn (2)
Waratahs: 33 (13) Tries: Adam Ashley-Cooper, Teqele Naiyaravoro, Bernard Foley Conversions: Bernard Foley (3) Penalties: Bernard Foley (4)
Cheetahs 24 - 45 Highlanders
Lions 20 - 30 Brumbies
Waratahs 33 - 18 Sharks
Hurricanes 22 - 18 Chiefs
Reds 46 - 29 Rebels
Blues 23 - 18 Bulls