Pride in badge and jersey will drive Sharks forward

rugby27 February 2024 12:57
By:Gavin Rich
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Joey Mongalo © Gallo Images

If the Emirates Lions players and coaches ever felt the Hollywoodbets Sharks being out of the race for a Vodacom United Rugby Championship playoff place will lessen the intensity of their approach, they would have thought again if they heard Joey Mongalo speak on Tuesday.

The Sharks defence coach told an online press conference ahead of his team’s trip to Johannesburg for Saturday’s clash with their rivals from Gauteng that his team’s lowly position on the log would motivate a drive for the Durbanites to end the season strongly and finish as high on the log as they possibly can.

“We are in the rugby business, this is our life, and we know that you are not going to be rated highly if you don’t win things. We are very aware of that, hence the desire to win as many games as we can from here on… This is a proud place, a proud rugby region and a proud province. We always go in wanting to represent the badge as best we can.

“We are in a lowly position on the log at present but we want to see how high we can climb, that is the challenge we have set ourselves. We want to put in a big effort to do that and if we finish the season strongly obviously it will be good for our confidence for next year.”


A good run of form will also of course give the Sharks the winning momentum they will need if they are to maximise their chances of winning the EPCR Challenge Cup, which is their remaining chance of silverware this season and also, perhaps even more significantly, their only remaining route into next year’s Investec Champions Cup. The winner of the Challenge Cup qualifies for the Champions Cup, something the Sharks are really unable to do now through the traditional route of finishing in the top half of the URC.

It’s been a nightmare season for the Sharks in terms of results, but Mongalo believes a look at the context makes things more understandable.

“Firstly, I want to make it clear we are concerned to be so low down on the log, we do expect more of ourselves,” said the Sharks defence coach.

“There is context though that is necessary. John Plumtree is effectively the new CEO at a business where he is trying to introduce a whole new way of working. He also has a new Exco in terms of the coaches he is working with. He hasn’t worked with any of us before. When you have a new staff and lots of changes you are trying to engineer, that will take time. I can’t imagine any business that in a scenario like that will not go through some kind of growing pains.

“There is no overnight fix, but hopefully that analogy can bring some kind of context. It is not an excuse for poor performance, it is just that we do accept it will take time (to get to where we want to be).


While the Sharks have only won once in the URC this season, Mongalo again believes there is context to the results that might paint a different picture of the Sharks’ progress.

“I do love context, I think it is important, and if you take away the losses to Leinster and Munster away, and the Bulls away, and look instead at the rest of the season as a whole, you will note that there are a lot of games where we were within a score of winning,” said Mongalo.

“I am not brushing over the fact we lost those games. But the closeness shows enough evidence that with a bit of luck we might have had different results and hopefully if we take a few more steps towards where we want to be those losses will become wins.”

Two of those close games were against the Stormers, who arguably always had the Sharks at arms length in their most recent game at Hollywoodbets Kings Park, and would probably have had an extra gear to engage had they needed it. But Mongalo is right when he says the team did show fight even though the four point losing margin was quite flattering to the hosts.

“On the positive side, I thought we defended really well in the first 20 minutes against the Stormers. In that opening quarter we were forced to make 76 tackles to just seven from the Stormers. I also thought that seeing we were 22-7 down at one stage we did really well to get back into the game and be one score away at the end. That fighting spirit is what we want to become synonymous with.

“At the same time, we were also let down in that game by little inaccuracies that have kept tripping us up. On the negative side, letting Evan Roos put in a break from his own 22 that led to a try for them was a soft moment. Two of their three tries came after just two or three rucks and that was soft from us.”