The Sharks have been working hard on changing the emphasis of their game from the forward domination that was the staple under previous coach Robert du Preez to a more attacking mindset geared towards striking off turn-over ball. Everitt predicted that Sharks fans would see more of that in a dry weather game at the closed stadium in Dunedin than they saw in the tournament opener against the Bulls in Durban last week, and he was on the money.
The Sharks have pace to burn out wide, they have in James Venter an openside flank who is even at this early stage of the season looking like an inspired buy for the Sharks, and most importantly they now also have the mindset to make the most of opportunities even if they are presented in what they would previously have considered the wrong areas of the field to run from.
Watching the Sharks put together their five try to three triumph it was easy to forget they are a relatively new team and were only playing their second Super Rugby game under a changed coaching staff that is trying to overhaul their playing style, but it was not lost on Everitt.
“I am really happy with where we are at the moment. The team is new and yet they are starting to learn very quickly,” said Everitt.
“That’s the sign of a successful team. I thought we played with a lot of energy. We have toured well so far and the players are enjoying themselves.”
That last statement might provide the key to what differs in this Sharks team in comparison to last year. The Sharks did produce some good performances under their previous coach, particularly against New Zealand sides, but what was noticeable on Friday was the energy they brought and how much the Sharks players appeared to be enjoying themselves and the type of rugby they are playing.
As Everitt noted, however, it wasn’t all just fun and games for them, and while it was their attacking skills that came through later in the game, they had to rely on defence in the early stages to stay in the contest as the Highlanders hit them hard in the first quarter.
“I thought the guys showed a lot of courage and guts in the first half,” said the coach.
“We were in an arm-wrestle for the first 20 minutes but the guys to stuck to their task. They were then rewarded when the game opened up late in the first half we managed to score some good tries that took us to a strong halftime lead.
“Although at times we did let the Highlanders beat us on the outside, I thought our first half defence was outstanding. The energy in this team is such that even in the first half when the Hurricanes were creating opportunities we were able to scramble and close them down. It was important that we stopped them from scoring.”
The Sharks didn’t manage to secure the try scoring bonus point but they have two wins from two starts and will fancy their chances of making it three out of three when they cross the Cook Strait to play the Hurricanes, who will just have returned from a long tour to South Africa and Argentina, in Wellington next weekend.
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