Sharks coach Robert du Preez hailed his team’s character following their come-from-behind Super Rugby win over the Lions on Saturday night.
The 31-24 victory keeps the Durban side’s hopes alive of a Super Rugby playoff, while the Lions are now in danger of losing their top spot in the South African Conference with only with two rounds left to play in the competition.
“We didn’t have any possession in the first half, as well as territory and I knew we would need a special performance and a really big fight back from the boys,” Du Preez said after the match.
“I talked about playing for each other, fighting for each other; that’s what they did. With this win we obviously got our campaign back on track.”
The scrum was a key factor in the match. The Lions dominated the set-piece at the start of the match and managed to get a plethora of penalties that helped to give them field position. However, the home side hit back and won a few penalties of their own after making some adjustments.
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The Sharks’ defence also played a massive part in stopping the Lions’ dangerous attackers.
“I think we were a little bit high in our set-up in the beginning and perhaps not enough speed on the set-up, but we sorted that out and the second half was a vast improvement. I think that changed the game for us,” Du Preez said.
“I thought our defence was outstanding, apart from the two soft tries conceded in the first half. I think that ultimately took its toll and in the end gave us the win.”
The coach also praised his two Springbok hookers Akker van der Merwe and Chilliboy Ralepelle for their contribution during the match. Van der Merwe won the Man-of-the-Match award, while Ralepelle definitely added a lot more grunt to the Durban side’s set-pieces in the second half.
Du Preez said the returning Springboks also played a massive role during the game, as well as in the build to the fixture.
“Akker only played 60 minutes and still got man of the match! He was great, he had a fantastic game. But Chilliboy also made a big difference when he came on, especially at scrum-time. In fact the whole bench was great,” Du Preez said.
“They [the Springboks] came back with a lot of confidence, the standard of our practices was better than before. Their contribution was huge. Everyone’s was.”
The Sharks next face the Stormers at Newlands this Saturday.