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'The Sharks are capable of winning the URC'

Connacht blown away by pace and strength of South African newcomers who scored 31 unanswered points in today’s clash at King’s Park.

Makazole Mapimpi celebrates with Kolisi.
Makazole Mapimpi celebrates with Kolisi.
Image: Steve Haag/INPHO

Updated Apr 30th 2022, 9:25 PM

Mike Greenaway in Durban

CONNACHT COACH ANDY Friend was left lamenting yet another second-half collapse from his team when they saw a 21-10 half-time lead over the Sharks in Durban disintegrate into a 41-21 hammering, with a large chunk of the 31 unanswered points scored in a 12-minute burst after the break.

“Too often we have had multiple scores against us in relatively short periods,” the Australian said of the flurry of points scored by the Sharks. “We have spoken about it and there are different reasons for it and it is certainly something we have to address going forward.

“I thought tonight it was because we had a few loose kicks just after half-time and they have a lethal back three who can cut you open if you give them the opportunity, and that is what happened,” the coach explained. “Their fullback (Aphelele) Fassi counter-attacks brilliantly and he was allowed to because of poor kicking by us.”

At half-time, Connacht appeared to be on top and had lived with the renowned physicality of the Sharks’ forwards but Friend suspected that there was more to come from the home team, who had been quiet by their standards.

“We thought at half time we had put together a reasonable 40 minutes and the message at the break was to stay in the physical contest and up the ante because we could see their power starting to come through… But then came some loose kicks and they were good enough to cash in, and the momentum switched to them.”

Conor Oliver, the Connacht fanker, said the power game of the Sharks was something to behold.

“They are a team capable of winning this (the URC),” Oliver said. “They are 100 percent physical and there is not much between the Sharks and the others in the top four. Once they (their forwards) get past phase three, it is really difficult to stop them (four of the five Sharks tries were scored by tight forwards).”

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Connacht has a long gap until they finish their season at home to Zebre on May 21.

“We will get home to Galway on Monday and have a few quiet days and then it is a big game against Zebre,” Friend said. “It is important for us to rest up because the physicality of the SA teams takes it out of you. Then we must finish the competition positively and do a full review of the season.” 

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