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Sharks need to fix the breakdown

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Sharks coach Sean Everitt must be pondering the high penalty count against his team, with many of the penalties coming at the breakdown where the Sharks once more found themselves under pressure.

Michael Tambwe and Sanele Nohamba of the Cell C Sharks celebrate during the Super Rugby Unlocked match against the Phakisa Pumas at Mbombela Stadium on Saturday. Picture: Dirk Kotze, Gallo Images

DURBAN – The Sharks returned from Nelspruit with their Super Rugby Unlocked campaign resurrected, but at the same time well aware that they need to improve still more if they are to beat the Cheetahs in Durban on Friday.

The Sharks bounced back from their big loss to the Bulls with a six-try 42-19 win over the gutsy Pumas, and their report card would read something like this: “Good, but much room for improvement.”

That is how Sean Everitt also sees it. The Sharks coach was a relieved man after the convincing win, but his feet were firmly on the ground when he praised his team.

“Obviously we are very happy with the result, especially given that last year we came here and got beaten – in fact, it is not often we get positive results away to the Pumas – so we will take this and enjoy our bus trip back.

“I thought the guys showed a lot of energy out there for the full 80 minutes this time,” Everitt said, referring to how his team had enjoyed very good opening quarters against the Lions and Bulls only for urgency levels to fall away.

High penalty count

On that bus trip back, Everitt would have pondered the high penalty count against his team, with many of the penalties coming at the breakdown where the Sharks once more found themselves under pressure. It has been a problem area in all three of the Sharks’ games so far.

“There is plenty of work for us to do, and yes the breakdowns are a growing area of concern,” Everitt said. “The previous week we addressed the set-piece problems that arose from the Bulls game, and I thought it came through really well – we were rewarded with some good scrumming, and we scored two maul tries, so that was pleasing.”

The Sharks also enjoyed a 100% lineout success rate (they won all 10 of the lineouts on their throw) after having lost six line-outs against the Bulls, while they lost one of their nine scrum put-ins.

“This week it will be the breakdown work that will get a lot of attention,” Everitt said. “It was a problem against the Bulls and then in this game (Pumas loose forwards) Francois Kleinhans and Jeandré Rudolph were good on the ball, so we need to tidy that up otherwise we are going to make life difficult for ourselves going forward.”

The Sharks played without first-choice loose forwards Sikhumbuzo Notshe and James Venter, both of who were carrying niggles from the Bulls game, and they are likely to return for the Cheetahs this week, as will Ruben van Heerden, who was given a break so that up-and-coming lock JJ van der Mescht could get a run.

@MikeGreenaway67