Rugby’s top of the table clash promises to have it all
GRIQUAS have been the absolute surprise package of the Currie Cup so far, but as the halfway mark in the season approaches, they now need to show that they are capable of sustaining their levels of performance throughout the second half of the competition.
The Sharks, meanwhile, have been highly impressive over the last few weeks as they have overcome the loss of several key players to Bok duty and injury, but they are also only too aware that the next month or so will almost surely define their season.
action, though, marks the end of the first round of the Currie Cup pool matches and for the Sharks and Griquas, their clash this afternoon will determine who finishes the first round in pole position, and although the coastal franchise should feel quietly confident that they can execute that feat back on their home ground, they’ll also know that Griquas have arrived in Durban on a mission.
“They are a different kettle of fish this year,” Sharks assistant coach Grant Bashford admitted. “They’ve upset a few teams and they’re playing the type of rugby that they can win wherever they go … from our perspective, they’re not top of the log for nothing. They’ve played all of the big teams now and they’re still top of the log, so they must be doing something right. We certainly have lots of respect for them.”
And although Griquas haven’t won a Currie Cup encounter in Durban since 1998, they will feel that they have rarely been better placed than they are this year, with a close-knit group and five wins already under the belt.
However, the Sharks have the momentum after three wins on the road and a winning habit well-established.
“We obviously have a lot of respect for the Sharks’ abilities,” Griquas coach Dawie Theron said. “They are an excellent, consistent, experienced unit and have done exceptionally well so far this season. They have strength and power among the forwards and backs and have been outstanding on defence.”
This after noon, though, there is no doubt the Sharks will be looking to keep the ball in hand and take play through the phases a bit more after the Lions asserted their ascendancy in the territory and possession stakes last weekend.
Bashford said there was obviously room for improvement on attack, but stressed that positive signs had already been evident thus far this season. “Unfortunately, our possession and territory stats were right down on the weekend but there are reasons for that which we’ve addressed, but we’ve actually attacked quite well at times during this Currie Cup. I’ve been quite impressed with how we’ve been progressing with the new way we’re trying to play. It takes time, it evolves and each week we just need to keep getting better.”
However, Griquas have the best attacking record this season while the Sharks have been rock solid on defence and it will be interesting to see if those statistics reflect on the field.
One wonders whether Griquas’ narrow loss to the Bulls last week was a temporary blip on the radar or has it broken their spirit. This top-of-thetable clash promises to have it all.