Sharks off to NZ with much to ponder
Cape Town - Poor at scrum time, uninspiring on attack, ill-discipline - those are all characteristics of the Sharks' performance in their 24-9 loss to the Lions in Durban on Saturday.
After a solid start to the season that saw the Sharks beat the Stormers in Cape Town on their way to being undefeated in their first four matches, there are now growing concerns that the wheels are coming off.
On Saturday, the Sharks were simply outplayed.
They threatened the Lions try-line on just two occasions, but for the most part they looked short of ideas on attack.
That wasn't their only problem as the Lions bossed the scrum contest and the Sharks, increasingly frustrated with some of the refereeing as the match progressed, were penalised heavily.
It doesn't get any easier for Gary Gold's men.
They departed, without the injured Marcell Coetzee, for New Zealand on Sunday where fixtures against the Blues, Highlanders and Chiefs await.
Gold, speaking after Saturday's match, held his hands up and acknowledged that his side was second best against the Lions.
"I feel sometimes we’re afraid to say that we lost to a better team … I thought they played really well tonight," Gold said.
"They defended very well. Last week they leaked 43 points … this week they didn’t. I think we hit them with wave after wave of attack … some of the time in the wrong areas of the field and that’s always going to make it difficult for you.
"We made our life difficult with the penalty count so high."
Gold was asked to comment on the scrum performance of Coenie Oosthuizen, but he would not put the blame on one player.
"There’s 8 guys in a scrum," said Gold.
"It’s another thing that we love to do … find a scapegoat. There are many scrums this year where Coenie has done well.
"The Lions are a reputable scrumming team. I give them a lot of credit for that … there’s no ways I’m going to highlight one individual.
"The scrum is a unit of 8 and we didn’t function as well as we wanted to tonight."
Gold also said he was "proud" of the attacking intent he saw from his side, and he shrugged off suggestions that the Sharks were a side not looking to play an attacking brand of rugby.
"People thought there was no intent to play and that’s not the case," he said.
"If we had taken that opportunity in the first five minutes when we had that wave of attack … who knows?"