Sharks want to deny Crusaders top two position

Getty Images     10 Jul 2014     Getty Images

But losing to the Cheetahs last weekend was, in the words of prop Jannie du Plessis, soul-destroying.

The team had enjoyed a break, the Springbok players had been given time off and the side had enjoyed some rotation to maintain freshness. It was close in the end, but ultimately, the loss was heart-felt.

“The feeling is not good,” he said. “We played against the Stormers the week before the international break and we really wanted to capitalise on the hard work we’d done on tour. But we made a few irrational choices on the field, and it came back to bite us.

“Then we were really keen to turn that around against the Cheetahs, and if you look at the game we really showed some intent, we carried the ball a lot more than they did, and we did try to play with a bit more ingenuity and ball-in-hand. They were just too good on the day, they capitalised on our mistakes and I think we couldn’t build pressure.

“We lost the ball a few times a few metres from the line, which was very disappointing.”

He admitted that losing their status as long leaders was a severe disappointment given the sustained effort over the course of the competition. They were log leaders from the start but are now in third place. The opportunity does exist for them to finish second in a climactic final weekend of pool stage rugby, this would guarantee a home semi-final.

“We’ve worked really hard this year, every single guy bought into the plan, and everybody wants to have some success in the black and white jersey. So it leaves a bitter taste in the mouth that we couldn’t play well enough to get a result at the weekend.

“I think we need to go back to what’s worked for us in the past. We’re going to defend hard, play in the right areas and we’re going to play the rugby that worked for us. We didn’t lack urgency because I can’t think of anyone who didn’t want to win, but if you look at the performance as a whole it wasn’t good enough, so we have to try make a plan from here to dig ourselves out of this hole. We need to remind ourselves of what worked for us at the beginning of the season.

“That said, if we have opportunities this weekend, we have to take the chances as they present themselves, whether by kicking goals or by ball in hand after 12 phases We need to have a clinical game and deliver an all-round performance. If we get opportunities, we must capitalise when in the right places on the field. That is what wins you championships. The teams that take their chances and deny opportunities to the opposition go through.”