Van der Walt warns Sharks over ‘stronger’ Li­ons

The Witness - - SPORT - SITHEMBISO DINDI

SHARKS loose­for­ward Philip van der Walt be­lieves the Li­ons will be even stronger than they have been in re­cent Su­per Rugby sea­sons and the Dur­ban­ites must brace them­selves for a ma­jor bat­tle in their open­ing match.

The Sharks kick off their Su­per Rugby sea­son with a trip to Johannesburg where they will play the Li­ons at El­lis Park Sta­dium at 5.15 pm on Satur­day.

For the past two sea­sons, the Li­ons have been South Africa’s best team in the com­pe­ti­tion, as they have been in back­to­back fi­nals.

At the be­gin­ning of the week, Sharks as­sis­tant coach Dick Muir said they didn’t re­ally know what to ex­pect from the run­ners­up as they didn’t have much in­for­ma­tion about the Li­ons’ pre­sea­son ac­tiv­i­ties.

Van der Walt shared the same view yes­ter­day, but said the Johannesburg­based out­fit were likely to con­tinue do­ing well in the new sea­son.

“I think they will prob­a­bly be even sharper. Teams al­ways work hard with all the time they had in the pre­sea­son to sharpen up and tweak things. I think they will try and build on the suc­cesses they have had in their at­tack­ing play,” he said. Ob­vi­ously, they have been do­ing well, they had two fi­nals in a row, so they will prob­a­bly be mo­ti­vated to get that ‘third time lucky’ and ac­tu­ally win it. So, I don’t think they are go­ing to change much.”

Van der Walt, who missed a huge chunk of the Sharks’ pre­sea­son as he was in­volved in the Ja­panese league, said he’s look­ing for­ward to the Su­per Rugby sea­son be­cause he hoped to see his side show im­prove­ment from the pre­vi­ous cam­paign. “It’s a new op­por­tu­nity for us to im­prove, it was the se­cond year run­ning last year that we reached the quar­ter­fi­nals but didn’t make it any fur­ther.

“I think we owe it to the Sharks as a brand to have a good sea­son. You know we all want to play in a fi­nal, we all want to win and it’s been a long time com­ing now,” he said.

“For me as well, it’s al­ways re­ward­ing if I can con­tribute to a team’s suc­cess, so I am very ex­cited and I think we have a team this year to be able to achieve that,” he added.

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