Super Rugby playoffs: Sharks aim to repeat Stormers display against Highlanders
Last Updated: 13/07/14 1:15pm
The Sharks will use their performance in Saturday's win over the Stormers as a blueprint for success in the Super Rugby playoffs.
In the wake of a brutal South African derby in Cape Town, Sharks director of rugby Jake White commented that if his team could replicate their outstanding defensive display, they had every chance of winning the title.
Having fallen short of the 35-point winning margin required to overtake the Crusaders in the overall table, the Sharks must now face the Highlanders in Durban on Saturday.
After losing in Bloemfontein last week, Saturday's victory - which was the Stormers' heaviest home defeat in seven years - means the Sharks will take plenty of momentum into the knock-out clash against a side which totally outplayed them in their last meeting (Highlanders won 34-18 when they visited Kings Park back in April).
"Our first job was to get a win here and take some momentum going into the playoffs," said White.
"In a lot of ways the way we played now is probably the way we want to play in the next couple of rounds because it is all knock-out now,"
"I just think we need to copy and paste, it sounds obvious but it is there. We strangled them and strangled them and when we got a turnover we scored from 60 yards out.
"We scored three tries and kept the Stormers try-less other than a maul try against seven forwards, that's obviously a good return on the weekend.
"We defended, I think at one stage 70 percent of the possession had gone to the Stormers, and if we can replicate that for three weeks we can win the competition it is as simple as that."
White said that his team had held hopes of the attaining the 35-point margin. We had to believe it could happen," he explained.
"I remember a couple of years ago the Stormers were beaten by about 75 points at Loftus in the last round of the competition.
"We spoke about it. We said if we get out here and we don't give it a crack we'll never forgive ourselves. Stranger things have happened in sport. For a moment there I could sense that the crowd thought it was going to happen.
"We'll take a lot of momentum and a lot of confidence out of the way it ended and the way we used our bench," he added, refering to the two late tries scored by S'bura Sithole and Stefan Ungerer.
"Obviously we would have liked to get the 35 points and the fourth try but there is still enough there for us to move forward.
The ex-Bok coach reserved special praise for his team's attitude on defence, then the Stormers' were camped in their 22 for long periods.
"You can't coach that, when you have been defending for 70 percent of the time against guys that are desperately coming at your line, that makes coaches happy.
"That is the part of the game that comes from the players, you can have all the defensive structures and talk about how you are going to get off the line but when you see it actually happening and you see the confidence they get when the bench comes on and everyone is still buying into the group then you get happy.
If you take that into a game at home, into a full house in Durban and then a trip overseas to beat two teams that we beat this year we can't be laughing at that.
"If you take that into a game at home, into a full house in Durban and then a trip overseas to beat two teams that we beat this year we can't be laughing at that."
The Sharks are the only South African franchise in the play-offs. White said the Sharks would be strengthened by the return of Patrick Lambie and Tendai Mtawarira next week.
The former Springbok coach was hopeful centre JP Pietersen, stretchered off after a collision with Stormers' Duane Vermeulen, would be fit to play.
"Initially we feared JP broke his jaw, but scans showed that it was not the case, but we'll have to see about concussion.
"Lambie and Beast (Mtawarira) will be back and maybe Jaco Reinach as well."
The Stormers were set on winning the match for the sake of taking momentum into the Currie Cup, as well as providing a fitting farewell for players who would further their careers abroad.
"It was not a good way to finish [the Super Rugby season] but credit to the Sharks who will take a lot of confidence out of this match," Stormers' coach Allister Coetzee said afterwards.
The Stormers lost the gainline battle for most of the way and their attacking intentions were foiled by a string of penalties.
"The breakdown was difficult and we could not play without quick ball," Coetzee said.
"The Sharks had the upper hand at breakdown and then it did not help our cause that so many penalties went against us. In the end, we gave away two soft tries, but the match was much closer than the final scoreline reflects."