Scoreboard pressure brought Sharks' downfall
INTERVIEW: The past weekend’s Currie Cup matches brought more realism for the Cheetahs’ play-off chances and kept Western Province on course after both secured home victories against the Sharks and Griquas respectively.
It was, however, not a good Sunday for the Sharks who were outplayed by the Cheetahs 10-37, as the team’s captain Lukhanyo Am and assistant coach Brent Janse van Rensburg admitted after the game.
Am felt his side made good momentum and made line breaks when they had the ball in hand.
“We just didn’t capitalise on our opportunities,” said the captain.
Janse van Rensburg was more analytical about the things he felt cost them the match.
“We were under scoreboard pressure which made us try to chase the game and force things,” said
“The game just didn’t go our way, whether it was a penalty at a break or whether it was a knock-on – and unfortunately it happened right through until the last minute of the game.”
Commenting on the lack of composure and chasing the game, Janse van Rensburg said that it sometimes happens that you get into that mental space where you try all things and maybe lose your calmness.
“I think testament to that was right at the end of the game. We gave the Cheetahs a five-pointer whereas, if we had just kicked the ball out, we would have restricted them to a four-point win and not a five-pointer [on the log table]. So we gave them an extra bonus point just because we tried to play too much.
“I think that was a problem with game appreciation towards the end of the game, because even if we scored a try we wouldn’t have a gotten a bonus point out the game and at best we would have improved our score’s difference by seven points.
“I feel restricting the bonus point to the Cheetahs would have been more valuable for us than improving our points difference by seven points.
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Janse van Rensburg mentioned some moments that may have changed the game.
“If you take the two kick-offs that we lost. If we had exited and if we converted all those line-outs on their tryline in the second half and just set the maul better and got going. We also had one overthrow [at the line-out].
“Yaw Penxe was through and a try could have probably been [scored]. You know he’s a team man, but he could have possibly been a bit more selfish on that one and gone and dotted it down himself instead of passing it to Werner Kok.
“Had we scored that try, for instance, that [lesser] scoreboard pressure would’ve started taking the tension off. And when the tension gets taken off scoreboard pressure like that, it puts you in a different mental space where you don’t feel as though you have to chase the game.
“I think that’s essentially what happened.”
Janse van Rensburg felt that the scrums had gone well enough, but that there was a need for consistency in the scrummaging.
“We weren’t pushed back, then in other scrums we were.
“So we were just not consistent and keeping the focus. I’m sure the forwards will sort it out in the week and focus on what we need to improve on there.”
There was no excuses about Covid-19 disruptions from the Sharks side. Janse van Rensburg admitted that it wasn’t an ideal situation
“You win competitions with a squad, you know. It’s given other players opportunities to play and for us to test the depth of the squad and see what we have in the group.
“It doesn’t help to give any energy to make excuses. We don’t have an excuse mentality and we embrace the challenges as they come. I believe that how you apply your mind to the challenges will determine how you come out at the other end.
“We can’t make excuses for a squad effort and we weren’t good enough today [Sunday].”
The Sharks’ assistant coach is under no illusions what task awaits them in the two remaining league matches with five teams still in the hunt for the semifinals.
“Yes, unfortunately, we need to perform to our best every week now. We’ll just focus on Griquas now I think and then worry about the Stormers game after that.
“This [the Cheetahs game] was an important game for us to get points out of, but you know, it is what it is. That’s sport, but I think it’s important that we keep perspective and don’t allow it to define us.
“We have to focus on the process and be juts more accurate in the set-piece and in the execution of converting opportunities into points.
“We had a good performance against the Bulls a few weeks ago. It was a good match and a good game of rugby for all to see and you know the guys certainly have it in them to bounce back
“So we’ll remain positive and seek solutions in the weeks coming. Hopefully, we can do well.”