Sharks shot themselves in the foot - Dick Muir
Gavin Rich - SuperSport.com
Cape Town - Sharks assistant coach Dick Muir has admitted that his team shot themselves in the foot by failing to make use of a great opportunity when they lost their penultimate Super Rugby league match to the Stormers at Newlands.
When the Rebels lost to the Reds earlier in the day it opened the door for the Sharks to go into the top eight and playoff qualification, but in order to do that they needed to beat the Stormers.
The Sharks were strong in the third quarter but in many ways, as Muir readily agreed, their performance in Cape Town was a microcosm of their season as a whole - they were good in parts but also bad in way too many. In the end the 27-16 result meant a losing margin that did not even allow them the consolation of a bonus point.
“We did shoot ourselves in the foot a bit as our destiny was in our own hands and now it is not,” said Muir.
“Maybe we can still get through but we have work to do and the way I see it we need to bank on beating the Jaguares with a bonus point.”
In fact, such a scenario would only hold true if the Rebels draw against the Highlanders in their final game next week. The eighth placed Rebels are three points ahead of the Sharks, so it is quite an uncomplicated situation the Sharks face - if the Rebels lose in Dunedin, it will mean the Sharks just have to win against the Jaguares, if the Rebels win…well then the match becomes a dead rubber from the Sharks’ viewpoint and they will have nothing to play for.
The Sharks’ task will be made difficult by the fact that they will be without the two influential Du Preez twins, Jean-Luc and Dan, for the league finale. Springbok flanker Jean-Luc is out for another week with the injury that forced him from the field against the Lions the previous week, while No 8 Dan was stretchered off at Newlands with what Muir described as a neck injury.
It was because head coach Robert du Preez was at his son’s bedside while he was undergoing scans in hospital that Muir attended the post-match press conference as the Sharks’ spokesman. He did not deny that unless the Sharks make it into the play-offs and get out of their current situation, the 2018 season will be remembered as a disappointing one for the Sharks.
“It (what happened in this game) has been a problem for us all season,” he said.
“We have one good game and then one bad one, we have one good half and then a bad half. We have some work to do in order to find out what is contributing to that. We went alright up front today, it was just a combination of errors that let us down. There were 14 handling errors which was uncharacteristic for us. We had no real front foot ball and the Stormers deserve credit for defending really well.
“I think what went wrong was a combination of factors. We had decided to play wide to wide as we felt there were areas in the Stormers game that we could exploit. It didn’t work and maybe that contributed to us not getting enough momentum. Maybe we tried to play a bit too much rugby. Maybe we should instead have been a little more direct.
“Our aim was to build scoreboard pressure and keep the scoreboard ticking up as we knew the Stormers had nothing to lose and if you fall behind in a game where you are not playing for anything sometimes it is hard to respond to the pressure. But they were up for it and instead of us putting them under pressure it was they who put us under pressure and we didn’t respond as well as we should have.”
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