Sharks Director Gary Gold has stopped short of saying his team’s 32-15 victory over the Hurricanes their best game of the season but given heavy praise for his players.
The Sharks had returned home from New Zealand days earlier but showed almost no signs of fatigue as they beat a Hurricanes that had been rampant a week earlier in Johannesburg.
“I think it was a very good performance, mostly because of the quality of opposition,” said Gold.
“I thought they were equally good today, they asked a lot of questions with ball in hand although they’ll feel that they didn’t convert all their opportunities.”
Whereas the opposition failed to close out all their chances, this was a performance from the Sharks that saw their finishing showing massive gains.
“I’m really happy with our game management, the way we planned for them worked out quite nicely,” he added.
At half-time, the teams were on level-pegging, but JP Pietersen’s try came at a crucial time, just before the break.
“It made a big difference to the confidence,” said Gold.
“The Hurricanes were definitely the better team in the first half, certainly for 35 minutes of the half. Then for us to get that try gave us a bit of confidence that all our defence wasn’t in vain.
“Although the earlier (Paul Jordaan) try was disallowed, we took confidence from the fact that we were able to hurt them from turnover ball.
“After halftime, we just needed to be patient in a close game and I’m proud of how hard the guys worked in the second half foir the victory.”
The Sharks were in outstanding form in the second half, but at eight-all said Gold, “By no stretch of the imagination was the game in the bag. We knew how hard we had to work, we haven’t been as strong as we’d like in the second half lately, so we knew our game management was important.
“I’m encouraged by the enthusiasm of the guys, especially opting to go for the scrum rather than kicking the penalty. It shows the intent of how we want to play.”
All the talk beforehand over the need to balance attack and defence, Gold felt there was improvement, but there is still room for growth.
“It was better, I wouldn’t go so far as to say it clicked, but I thought we took our opportunities a little bit better when they came. There wasn’t anything especially different, we just kept working on the right things, we knew the opportunities would come; it’s a confidence thing.
“It’s getting better but we’re a long way from the finished product.”
Gold also had words of praise for Man of the Match Keegan Daniel, but also needed to acknowledge the all round effort from the entire team.
“He’s a stalwart and brings a huge amount of experience, he has a cool, calm head and is a leader within the team; I thought he was outstanding.
“But so too were the Du Preez brothers, I thought they were next level. Garth April was exceptional, Andre Esterhuizen must have comfortably made 20 tackles. It was a good team effort, everyone put their hands up and tried hard.
“Keegan’s decision making and reading the opposition hooker were outstanding, he got up and asked a lot of questions of a useful hooker at lineout time. That made a big difference, it’s been our achilles heel in a few games, our lineout capitulated against the Lions, our scrum has creaked at certain times.
“You need that set piece to launch and it’s something we know we’ve been poor at. We put a lot of work and energy into that.”