Durban – Sharks head coach Gary Gold was in a grumpy mood after his side’s 16-16 draw with the Bulls at Loftus, not because flyhalf Joe Pietersen had missed the easiest of penalties – which would have sealed a win – but because of the many errors that punctuated his team’s rugby on the night.
While Sharks supporters spent the weekend bemoaning Pietersen’s missed kick, Gold was more concerned about the team’s poor start and a number of other scoring opportunities that were fluffed in the second half.
The draw has left the Sharks as the only unbeaten team in Super Rugby but Gold said he was “unhappy” that two log points had been left behind at a soggy Loftus.
“We were really poor in the first half and errors at critical times, the penalties at the breakdown and our poor execution in exiting our own quarter kept handing momentum and possession back to the Bulls.”
Gold said that the Sharks “hardly fired a shot” in the first half and this had resulted in them playing the game in the wrong areas of the field.
“It was pleasing that we showed character in fighting back in the second half to take the lead and we should have at the end. But I was disappointed that there were still errors which broke our attacking structure and also resulted in two tries going begging.”
Gold said the Sharks had to realise that they could not continue to start badly and on the backfoot – as they did at both Newlands and Loftus – and then rely on a strong second-half display to win games.
The Sharks coach said that defence was again impressive – apart from one first-half lapse when the Bulls fashioned their only try – and the forwards had successfully nullified the strong Bulls’ maul.
“The scrums were a lottery, some good and some bad, but the many errors we made were decisive.”
The game, of course, will be remembered for Pietersen’s extraordinary miss but Gold said that was patently unfair to blame the flyhalf.
“There were so many things in the game that we could control and did not. If Joe had missed the kick in the third minute, and not the 81st, then no one would have spoken about it.
“The issue was not a missed penalty but the try-scoring opportunities which were not taken and would have given us a comfortable lead instead of having to rely on the last kick of the game.
“Joe walked back into the change-room and apologised to the players and we have moved on. It should also be remembered that he kicked an excellent 50m penalty on half time so it is really was a case of swings and roundabouts so it is particularly unfair to blame the result on one incident.”
Gold said that he had been impressed by the Bulls’ rugby in the first half.
“They threw numbers into the breakdown and won the battle of the gain-line. They also had an accurate kicking game which we did not expect.”
The Sharks coach said that in the cold light of day a draw was the fairest result.
The Friday night game at Loftus allows the Sharks an extra day to recover before their next outing, against the Crusaders at King’s Park at 17:15 on Saturday.
The New Zealanders beat the King 57-24 in Christchurch on Saturday before starting their long trek to Durban.