Durban - Sharks director of rugby Jake White conceded his team's lacklustre victory over the struggling Cheetahs in Durban on Saturday was evidence enough that there are no "free games" in Super Rugby.
The coastal side stretched their lead at the top of the tournament standings to six points with an unimpressive 19-8 victory at Kings Park.
"It wasn't pretty," White said after the game.
"The message I gave the players afterwards was that sometimes you have to win ugly.
"Let's not forget that a year ago we lost to that Free State side and it was almost a re-run of what we expected they were going to do this time.
"So it wasn't ideal and there were obviously things that we didn't get right, but anyone involved in rugby will tell you that you that sometimes you play badly and win, you get a lot out of that as well.
"What the performance does also show is you're not going to get any free games in this tournament, no matter what people think."
Jean Deysel scored the only try for the hosts, which came late in the game to secure the win, after Ryno Benjamin's 65th minute score had briefly given the visitors hope in a match lacking any energy or fluency from either side.
Eleven of the home side's other points came via the boot of Frans Steyn during the second half.
"They defended well, but to be fair we didn't play any rugby, so it wasn't difficult to defend against that," White said.
"I don't think we asked enough questions."
The Sharks boss felt there were a number of reasons that contributed to their poor showing, including the respect showed by the Cheetahs' against the competition's best defence and also the Sharks' wariness of the opposing team attack.
However, the biggest could have been a lack of cohesion in their backline, which included three debutants in flyhalf Tim Swiel, along with wingers Tonderai Chavhanga and Jaco van Tonder, a last-minute replacement for JP Pietersen.
"Let's not forget this was our third 10 we played in three weeks," White added.
"To be fair and not putting pressure on him, it was always going to be difficult to get some rhythm and some continuity going when you got a number 10 making his first start.
"We had him and both wingers starting in their first games for the Sharks, so that disruption does play a role."
Visiting coach Naka Drotske, who saw his side slip to the bottom of the log by the end of the round after the Stormers beat the Lions in the other South African derby, was still pleased with his side's showing.
"I thought we played reasonably well," he said. "Our defence was really good, but once again on attack we couldn't keep the ball for more than three or four phases and conceded turnovers too easily.
"For some reason, maybe it's a lack of confidence, we played too laterally.
"That put a lot of pressure on our defence, which I thought was outstanding today."