Braam confident Sharks can correct wrongs from loss to Stormers
Gavin Rich - SuperSport.com
Cape Town - Sharks assistant coach Braam van Straaten appeared to half answer the question many would be asking ahead of the Loftus crunch with the Bulls when he spoke to Durban media at the start of the build-up week.
"We still want to go out there and play some good rugby that the crowds will enjoy, but we have to be really accurate in the way we go about it," the Sharks defence coach told SuperSport.com.
There has been much talk of the Sharks' intent to play a more all-encompassing attacking game and to be more prepared to be adventurous and take risks, but shovelling the ball in their own half cost them in their home defeat to the Stormers at the weekend.
Certainly the Sharks could have profited from being a lot more direct than they were, and the match showed that if there is indeed a quest for a more total game - there is debate about whether that is really the case - then the performance reflected that perhaps it isn't being applied and understood correctly. It has led to speculation that there could be a shift in strategy, even an over-correction, at Loftus.
Van Straaten's words though suggest otherwise. He agrees the wrong decisions were made against the Stormers, but then he also drew on the old Naas Botha quote about the Currie Cup not being won in May to apply it to Super Rugby.
"Super Rugby is not won in March, or even in April. The Bulls will provide a good challenge at Loftus, but the Stormers defeat was just one game and we are confident we can correct what went wrong there," said Van Straaten.
What could be ominous for the Sharks though is that there is acknowledgement that they really struggled with the Stormers' kicking game. That is a Bulls strength, particularly when they play in the ratified atmosphere of their home ground on the Highveld.
"We realise we weren't at the top of our game at the weekend, although we did defend very well (to keep the end margin manageable). The main trouble was that we did not handle their kicking game very well. We made some judgement errors within the main drivers when it comes to where we want to go. That means the senior players.
"When you become really dominant on defence, opposition will seek other ways of breaking us down. They will kick behind us. That is what the Stormers did really well tactically. They kicked 33 times. That's a lot. It is almost northern hemisphere proportions."
Indeed it is, but the Sharks should expect more of the same in Pretoria, and the Bulls are likely to execute their kicking strategy a lot better than the Stormers did. There have been hints at changes to the Sharks team, but it is unclear what changes could be made at the back that would strengthen the Sharks' chances of blunting what should be the Bulls' main thrust.
"We definitely can put it right at Loftus and one loss doesn't define our season," insists the former Stormers and Springbok flyhalf.
"The model is getting better every day on the training pitch, we must just persist with what we are doing. We need to get better in several areas. We also need to improve our discipline. You cannot afford two yellow cards. That played a role in allowing the Stormers to get the better of us... as being a man down impacts on work-rate and on energy," he added.
"We also need to be better at finishing our opportunities when we do get into the opposition goal zone. It should be a really good tussle at Loftus, we won't be defined by last week, we will be a different team. Make no mistake, the Bulls are a good side, and we will have to be on our game to put them under pressure. It is about decision making as much as anything else.
"The Bulls are a physical side, but it is also about being smart. The Stormers defeat was a big learning curve for everybody. We need to be able to handle pressure better and our game management needs to be better."
Van Straaten pinpointed the Bulls' Bok flyhalf Handre Pollard, who is also captaining the Pretoria team, as a big threat at the weekend.
"I said a long time ago that Handre could become the best flyhalf in the world. He still has some rough edges to his game but he is getting there. He is growing into the role and we know we will have to put him under pressure if we hope to come back from Pretoria with a win."
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