Sharks coach Robert du Preez believes his team is still in the hunt for a Super Rugby play-off spot despite their latest setback against the Bulls at Loftus.
The defeat leaves the Sharks second last in the South African conference but they are level on log points with the Jaguares and the Bulls.
Du Preez’s men were gallant but ultimately went down 39-33 to the Bulls‚ which means the Pretoria side has performed a Super Rugby double over them this season.
"We’ve got two games left‚" Du Preez said.
"We have the Chiefs next week. Then we have the Jaguares away.
"It is all good. We are very much in the race. It is all to play for‚" said a bullish Du Preez.
His side showed good resolve to claw their way back into a contest that seemed lost after early ill-discipline knocked them onto the back foot.
"Very costly‚" he described the yellow card that caused fullback Curwin Bosch to be banished to the bin.
"Our discipline let us down early in the game. We were 17 points down and with a deficit like that it was always difficult to come back. I also thought our exits weren’t great early on. Not kicking out three balls was not a great way to start."
The second yellow later in the game when Lukhanyo Am was binned also undermined their effort.
"We were right in it, until the end‚ until that scrum that we got penalised for.
"It was the wrong call. That sort of changed the way the game was going‚" said Du Preez.
The Bulls‚ however‚ found ways of exposing pressure points in the Sharks’ make-up.
By kicking high to Makazole Mapimpi’s wing the Bulls found a way off gaining territory. "They did it the last time‚" Du Preez said as a reminder.
"They got reward for that. We knew they could do that. They are a well-balanced side. They can play any type of game."
The Bulls have also become adept at absorbing what the confrontational Sharks throw at them.
"It is a South African derby. I thought the pack was physical and they were dominant‚" said Du Preez. "I think the intensity was there. We battled a little bit to get into their shape. Maybe our one-off passing was done too quickly."
Du Preez was happy his side showed fighting spirit after their poor start.
"To have come back from a deficit of 17 points and being in the game at the death‚ I have to commend the boys. That showed fighting spirit. This is a great team. We are going to go a long way."