VIDEO: Sharks at peace with pre-match drama that forced late changes
REACTION: Sharks coach Sean Everitt refused to blame the pre-match drama – which forced him into withdrawing two Springboks – for their loss to the Bulls.
A rash of injuries and COVID-contact situations forced the Sharks to ask for special dispensation to play Retshegofaditswe Nche and Thomas du Toit off the bench against the Bulls in Durban at the weekend.
However, the Bulls objected and the two players were withdrawn shortly before kick-off.
The Bulls went on to win 34-22 and reach the inaugural Rainbow Cup cross-hemisphere Final – where they will face Benetton in Treviso next Saturday.
Benetton advanced to the Final after topping the Pro14 conference.
However, the Durban decider between the Sharks and Bulls was preceded by some boardroom drama.
Sharks CEO Eduard Coetzee revealed that the Bulls had objected to the presence of Nche and Du Toit in the matchday squad – who were both earmarked to the ‘rested’ as part of the national team protocols.
The Sharks had asked for special dispensation to use Nche and Du Toit off the bench.
“We had a challenging week choosing a team, particularly in the front row where we’ve had many injuries,” Coetzee said in a media release before the game.
“Unfortunately, just before the game, our request [to SA Rugby and the Bulls] was denied by the Bulls and that has necessitated some last-minute changes that we’ve had to make,” Coetzee added.
(Watch as Sharks coach Sean Everitt gives his opinion on the pre-match developments … article continues below video)
The coach, Everitt, admitted that late changes will always be “disruptive”, but refused to use it as an excuse for his team’s struggling set-piece performance in the loss – a game in which they conceded a number of scrum penalties.
However, having lost the use of two Springbok props was always going to present challenges of its own.
“We gave away quite a few scrum penalties in the first half,” Everitt told a virtual post-match media briefing.
“I thought the guys that stood in, at the lost minute, did really well,” the coach added.
“Khuthazani Mchunu has just come off a six-week injury, drove down [to Durban] from Bloemfontein, started the game and had to play the full 80 minutes.
“The is massive guts. At the Sharks, we pride ourselves on the effort and the courage the guys show on the field and that is a true example of that.”
Everitt was reluctant to go into the boardroom wrangling that caused the late changes, saying it is a subject for the administrators to take up.
“I am a rugby coach and I focus on the job at hand,” he told @rugby365com, when asked about the disruptions.
“We did have a problem at tighthead, with Wiehahn [Herbst] – who had a back spasm last week and then had a COVID-contact.
“Rassie [Erasmus, South Africa’s Director of Rugby] left it up to the CEOs to agree that we could have Ox [Retshegofaditswe Nche] and Thomas [du Toit] on the bench.
“At late notice, there was an objection [from the Bulls] and they had to be withdrawn.”
He said decisions will always be made in the best interest of the national team.
“We respect the national cause, but we genuinely had a problem today [Saturday],” Everitt said.
Bulls Director of Rugby Jake White’s post-match reaction …