“It Never Felt Like We Were Out Of The Game” – Neil Powell


Following the Cell C Sharks Vodacom United Rugby Championship clash against Ulster at Hollywoodbets Kings Park on Saturday, Director of Rugby Neil Powell spoke of mixed emotions over the result.

“It was a disappointing outcome,” he remarked afterwards, following the outcome.

“We were really hoping to get at least four points from this game, but at times we let ourselves down with individual inaccuracies. We’d score points, but on the kick receipt, we couldn’t remove the pressure which put us further under pressure.

“That first 15 minutes was the way we wanted to play Ulster and then unfortunately after that water break it felt like we lost a bit of momentum. We gave them too many opportunities to maul inside our 22 and that was due to us not being clinical enough in the way we wanted to exit.”

Powell highlighted absorbing maul pressure as a big factor, explaining that, “When a team scores three maul tries, you feel exposed, and that’s something we need to get right. It’s no use saying every week that we’ll work on it, because the maul challenge is one that will come every weekend and it’s something we need to get right every single game.”

While there were areas of concern, Powell could not fault the effort from his team in a game where they were never really out of.

“The backs tried hard, the forwards too, it never felt like we were out of the game, but we would score and then they would put us under pressure at the kick-off because of our own mistakes and inaccuracies.”

While there were two log points – a losing bonus point and a four try bonus – and some comfort to take out of the game, he admitted that it didn’t quite match their aims.

“We would have preferred four points, we had opportunities to get more points out off this game. So two points is some comfort, it keeps us in the top eight. But still, it was a disappointing result.”

With four pool games remaining, the Cell C Sharks currently lie in seventh position, five points clear of Connacht in eighth place. A trip to Cape Town to take on the high-riding DHL Stormers this Saturday beckons and it doesn’t get any easier for Powell’s men.

“The Stormers are a really good team and there’s a reason why they’re second on the log,” he explained. “They play a good brand of rugby and a holistic style, so you have to be accurate in all areas of the game if you don’t want to get punished.

“We’ll have to make sure the plan we have for them is a really good one because they’re a well-coached team, they have threats everywhere and we have to make sure we are good in all areas of the game.

“We can’t only be good in one area, because they will punish any weaknesses.”