We have the character - Gold
Johannesburg - Disappointed Cell C Sharks director of rugby Gary Gold consoled himself after his team’s agonizing away defeat to the Vodacom Bulls at the weekend with the knowledge that his men have shown the character needed to win Vodacom Super Rugby.
According to the supersport.com website, that character will be needed in plenty supply over the coming weeks though for the Sharks face a tough three game sequence which features away clashes with the DHL Stormers and the Toyota Cheetahs before a tough home game against the inform two time competition champions, the Chiefs.
So it’s already make or break time for the Sharks, something that Gold might be well advised to dwell on in his team talks over the next few days, for previous Sharks coaches will be able to tell them that for some reason the team does tend to react best when the chips are down and the gun is against the head in a sort of knock-out phase scenario.
Few would disagree with Gold’s contention that the Sharks were unlucky at Loftus, and he was at pains to hold himself back from what would have been a perilous and costly attack on the match officials in his post-match comments.
“The decision to allow the Bulls a try off what might have been a forward ass was critical, as was the Odwa Ndungane try disallowed after the other TMO decision,” said Gold.
“They were game changers, in a much bigger sense than we can understand. It went from us being in a situation of potentially winning the game, potentially getting a fourth try, to potentially losing the game with a bonus point, to losing without a bonus point. That is like a four-shot swing in a game of golf. It is massive in the context of a South African Conference that is going to be very tightly contested because every team is good this year.”
Gold struggled to keep his opinions on the refereeing to himself, and while he managed it in the end, he left little doubt that he was unhappy.
“We have a directive that if we are very disappointed in the referee and believe his performance is sub-standard, we are not entitled to make a comment in public, so I won’t make a comment about that (the refereeing decisions). But I will make a comment on the need for consistency on “not clear and obvious” on a forward pass for the Bulls try, but when Odwa goes up for a contestable kick, how is that consistently “not clear and obvious”. We just need consistency.”
Indeed, and while the Sharks went down by eight points in the end, it was really much closer than that, and Gold would not have been offsides had he claimed the TMO and refereeing calls made all the difference. Still, his team did show great character in coming back from a 10 point deficit early in the game and again from an 11 point one towards the end.
“It was a pressure cooker game, the desperate Bulls played well. Both teams made errors, and you are going into amidst that kind of tension. But given the character we showed and the opportunities we created, we were unlucky not to have won. This disappointment is so rife at the moment that it is hard to pin-point problems.
“One thing I can say though that is not a problem is our character. Coming back and getting the lead in the 72nd minute when we had been 19-30 down against a frantic Bulls team was an unbelievable effort, and we can concentrate on that character. Given the quality of the players we have, the bench we have, we can only improve.”
The Sharks may have lost loose-forward Jean Deysel to a leg injury, but they could benefit in the build-up to the Stormers game at Newlands on Saturday by the return of a phalanx of big name players. Willem Alberts was back in training last week and the two Springboks recently returned from Japan, Frans Steyn and JP Pietersen, are due to return to training this week. Beast Mtawarira could also return to the selection mix for the trip to Cape Town.