The 'world-class' backs that are rocking Durban
REACTION: The Sharks are certainly not bashful about selling their array of international backline stars as the team’s match winners.
The value of the internationals in the team was on full display in their impressive win at Ellis Park at the weekend.
The Sharks held off a second-half charge by the Lions to score a 47-37 win in an 11-try thriller.
Outscoring their hosts by six tries to five, the Sharks went back to the top of the South African conference in the United Rugby Championship a position held by the Lions at the start of the match.
Coach Sean Everitt heaped praise on the superstar backs – Springboks Aphelele Fassi, Sibusiso Nkosi, Lukhanyo Am (the captain) and hat-trick hero Makazole Mapimpi.
Then there is their Wallaby import, Australian Ben Tapuai.
He said their ability to score tries by pressuring the opposition into mistakes and then countering, is directly related to the skill of these players.
“The type of rugby you play is dependent on the personnel that you have [at your disposal],” Everitt told a post-match media briefing.
“Having guys like Sibusiso Nkosi, [Makazole] Mapimpi, who scored three tries, and Aphelele Fassi at fullback, who is much-improved in his performances, are the guys who can nail opportunities.
“That is the reason why we won the game,” he said of their triumph over the Lions in Johannesburg.
He added that the Springbok stars in his backline are “the best in the world” in their positions.
“Look at Mapimpi, he must be the best left wing in the world.
“We talk about Cheslin Kolbe, and rightly so, but every time Mapimpi plays he manages to get over the chalk, domestically or internationally.
“Lukhanyo has been absolutely superb, [he is] probably the world’s best No.13,” Everitt added.
“And it is great that they perform like this for their franchise.
“It shows they want to pay us [the Sharks franchise] back.
“Sometimes you get players that perform on the international stage, but don’t really bring it to the party domestically.
“They are great people and we are grateful happy to have them at the Sharks and to see them put on the back and white [Sharks jersey] and perform at the highest level.”
He was also very complimentary of Tapuai.
Everitt said the seven-times capped Wallaby was brought in to bring some “experience” to the No.12 jersey.
“We were also looking for a player that can kick with his left foot,” he said about the 33-year-old that had stints with the Reds and Western Force in Super Rugby, as well as Bath and Harlequins in the Premiership.
“He also has very good distribution skills,” the coach said, adding: “There were some nice touches from him [against the Lions].
“We thought he would compliment Lukhanyo [Am], as well as create space for the outside backs.
“With the high-line D [defence], the playmaking is coming from a second set of hands.
“He is experienced, communicates very well and shows leadership on the field.”
(Continue below …)
He also revealed the tactics they employed to overpower the Lions – pressuring their hosts into making mistakes and then playing from those turnovers.
“When Cash [Lions coach Ivan van Rooyen] reviews the game, he will see the same thing we did.
“Our plan was to put pressure on the Lions defensively, because we felt they would overplay in the wrong areas of the field.
“If we defended strongly, we knew we would get the reward from it.”
He admitted they were not always as accurate and clinical on the attack as they should have been.
“We gave them opportunities,” he said of the five tries the Lions scored.
“If you look at when the Lions beat the Stormers, [back in December], they forced 25 turnovers and won comfortably.
“We were wary of that.”
The Sharks now turn their attention to the Stormers – who will be visiting Kings Park this coming Saturday, before the return match between the two sides in Cape Town a week later.
“Our frustration in the Lions game was in our kick-offs, both sending and receiving,” Everitt said.
“Both teams were not good in that area.
“We were never able to get away on the scoreboard because of that, so it is a big work on for us.”
Apart from fixing the errors, the Sharks will welcome back two more Springboks – Siyamthanda Kolisi and Mbongeni Mbonambi.
They were ‘rested’ last week to complete their conditioning programmes, after an extended December break.