Sharks coach pensive after Currie Cup final heartbreak

Sharks coach pensive after Currie Cup final heartbreak

Sharks coach Sean Everitt has highlighted some positive takeaways from a disrupted season following their 26-19 loss to the Bulls in the Currie Cup final.

Sean Everitt
Steve Haag/Hollywoodbets

The 2020 rugby season was by all accounts one of the most unique in recent memory given the massive challenges posed by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. The Sharks were arguably the worst team affected by the virus, with players being ruled out of selection week after week during the Currie Cup and the team had a couple of games cancelled when more than half their squad was ruled out by positive Covid-19 tests.

Nevertheless the Durban outfit faced up to adversity and managed to book a spot in the Currie Cup final against the high-flying Bulls who finished top of the log. The tournament decider lived up to expectations of a highly-physical encounter that would be decided by a close margin and ended up going into extra time to decide the winner.

Bulls flank Arno Botha had the final say in the match, scoring a crucial try in the second half of extra time to give the Pretoria outfit their first Currie Cup title in 11 years. The result was heartbreaking for the visitors from Durban, who could have wrapped things up if they’d taken the many chances afforded to them in the first and second half.

Nevertheless the Bulls hoisted the Currie Cup after 100 minutes of taxing, brutal rugby and the Sharks are left looking back on a season of many highs and lows. Sharks coach Sean Everitt cut a devastated figure after his side’s defeat at Loftus on Saturday evening and admitted that his players were ‘gutted’ following the result. 

On a day when it mattered most, Sharks flyhalf Curwin Bosch’s radar failed him as he missed a total of five penalty shots at goal while three drop goal attempts also sailed wide of the Loftus Versveld posts. It must be mentioned that Bulls and Springbok veteran Morne Steyn also missed a couple of shots at goal, while his replacement Chris Smith could have sealed the result on the full time hooter as well, but his penalty shot was also off target which forced the match into extra time.

The Sharks also copped criticism for their decision making during the final. As Bosch’s misses began to add up, the team’s leadership group opted to kick for touch on a couple of occasions where they might have pointed to the posts, but Everitt said he was happy with the calls made by his charges during the match.

“The players on the field have got a feel for the game. One can debate that, if we had scored a try we wouldn’t be having this conversation. I suppose taking the score to 22-9 is probably one way to look at it but last week we went for the corner against Western Province and the players felt it was the right decision and we scored a try and no one questioned that. It wasn’t one isolated moment, I think there were more and that may have contributed to it as well,” Everitt said after the match.

Losing a final will always be bitterly disappointing but Everitt zoomed out to give a greater perspective of what his side has achieved over the past 12 months. The Sharks coach took solace in the fact that many players have established themselves and that the group has grown under some tough circumstances.

“I said to the players during the week, you can’t base the success of a season on one game. There’s so much that happened between the beginning of 2020 to the end of January 2021. There’s been players that have been given opportunities, there’s new players that have come in that have done exceptionally well, the players have grown as a squad and the leadership group has grown as well,” Everitt explained.

“There’s a lot of success that has happened. Everyone wrote us off when we played in the semifinals and then we got to the final and push the Bulls to the 100th minute. I’m really proud of the guys and, yes, the season was a success.” 

Building up Bosch

The 2021 Currie Cup final was particularly unkind to Bosch given that the Sharks pivot has had an exceptionally good season with the boot. The 23-year-old has kicked well above an 80 percent success rate and has been praised for his game management over the past four months.

Typically a sweet striker of the ball, Bosch couldn’t find the kicking rhythm that he’d come to enjoy in recent months and there’s no doubt that the flyhalf will be sorely disappointed with his performance. Everitt said the team couldn’t pin any blame on Bosch and highlighted the fact that his boot was part of the reason the Sharks had reached the Currie Cup final in the first place.

“I’m not disappointed that he didn’t kick everything over, he’s done it time and time again this year. It’s like golfers, you have a bad day and maybe today he wasn’t up to the standard that we’re used to,” Everitt said.

“That guy has been amazing for us and like I said during the week, he’s pulled us out of the trenches and unfortunately it didn’t go his way today. Morne missed kicks and Chris Smith missed one to win the game after 80 minutes so we could look at all the kickers in that respect if you like.”

As the South African rugby season draws to a close, the four historical Super Rugby franchises will have a few months to prepare for The Rainbow Nations Cup, an extension of the Pro14 which includes the Bulls, Sharks, Lions and Stormers. The short competition is set to kick-off in April and wrap up by June, just before the British and Irish Lions tour to South Africa is set to begin. That's if the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic doesn't throw another spanner in the works.

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