Sharks' character has Gold beaming
Durban - The Cell C Sharks are nearly halfway through their Super Rugby pool stage commitments, and find themselves top of the South African Conference.
Sharks website editor Michael Marnewick reports that this is not a bad place to be considering the start they had, but they have rallied well in the face of pressure and delivered when their backs were up against the wall. And it’s during times like this that the true test of team’s character is in the spotlight.
When the choice was given to them - sink or swim – the Sharks chose to not only accept the challenge, but embrace it. Three wins on the trot is testament to that.
"We must take cognisance of the fact that all three of those wins were character-building," explained director of rugby Gary Gold after his team’s victory over the Force at Kings Park on Saturday.
"Nobody gave us a chance of winning in Bloem after losing to them at home, then we had last week’s debacle against the Chiefs, then coming back from 6-0 down and getting a few tries to beat the Force.
"The players get a lot out of these character tests – learning that if we apply our minds and are disciplined, we can get back into games.
"It would be wonderful if we could apply the character to playing well at the same time, then we would be a very good team."
He admitted that while he was grateful for wins however they come, "I just feel we should not be in close ones. It feels like the penny has to drop and we must understand that we can’t be putting ourselves in these pressure situations.
"But I am happy with the character and one or two aspects of the game, including courageous defence and the scrumming improving week in and week out.
"But we created enough in first half to have really capitalised, and I say that with respect to the Force because they have so much fight; we should have been out of sight at half-time, but weren’t."
For Gold, there is still work to be done to accomplish a state where they are playing as they want to.
"We must be honest about that, we can’t fool ourselves.
"We are not playing well enough by our standards and we know what is coming this week, and our improvement is going to have to be incredibly vast.
"I just know this group of players can play much better than this.
"If we have this kind of character and our set-piece is functioning, then we can be up there with the top teams, but we have a lot of improving to do."
That improvement is difficult sometimes when there are disruptions, and when you lack continuity, it’s not easy to get your game plan flowing.
"I have been honest enough to say we were poor in this game," he said, "but it really was a disruptive week with the cards and hearings, and having to rest players. We took our 9/10 axis away, moved Frans from centre to flyhalf...
"On Thursday we were scurrying around pulling Lionel Cronje out of the Vodacom Cup team to train with us because there was a chance Frans would not play, so Fred and Lionel were running plays that Frans had been running the whole week.
"But I think when we get a run of games where we can pick the same team, you will see genuine improvement.
"Look, we will take the points and be thankful but we know that we are nowhere near where we have to be to challenge for the title."