SHARKS SHARPEN UP
Sharks prop Tendai ‘Beast’ Mtawarira, with hooker Akker van der Merwe, left, hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle and prop Ross Geldenhuys go through their paces at training this week ahead of tomorrow’s Super Rugby must-win clash against the Chiefs at Kings Park at 3pm.
THE SHARKS may be coming off a loss against the Bulls, but it was by no means a 40-10 humbling like they felt in their first encounter against the Pretoria-based outfit. They now also have a chance to showcase their abilities as they face their fourth New Zealand side of the season, having shone in the three other outings.
Not only that, the Chiefs, who will face up to the Sharks at 3pm tomorrow at Kings Park, are well understrength thanks to a contingent of missing All Blacks, and a rather large spate of injuries.
But for the Sharks, it is more about introspection than planning what they will do with what the Chiefs put up against them.
They are out to get a much needed win, in a congested log, with only five games left, and that means respecting the opposition at all costs.
“We have spoken about the Chiefs and their selection, so we know whatever team they put out, it will be a good team, it is a New Zealand team and we respect them,” coach Robert du Preez explained.
Having missed out on four points, only picking up the one losing bonus point, in Pretoria, the Sharks know that they need to make strides on the log and the best way is to focus on the result first.
“Winning comes first, and if there is a bonus point, that will be great, but that is not a consideration for us, we won’t change the way we play,” Du Preez added.
It seems for the Sharks that, despite the loss, there is a lot to build on from that pretty positive performance against the Bulls.
They managed to identify some problem areas, and are working to fix those, rather than getting complacent against a Chiefs team that is missing upwards of 20 players.
“I have always said that if the effort is there, and the intensity, then we cannot fault the players, and that was there against the Bulls,” the coach said.
“We started badly, and then giving away a yellow card really cost us, but we have spoken about the stuff we need to work on, which were our exits, that was not good enough.”
Also in the Sharks’ favour this week is the fact that they seem to revel in playing New Zealand sides, but the coach, as well as the players talking through the week, were not trying to make too much of a big deal about this.
“I don’t think it is just because we are playing New Zealand teams that the guys are getting themselves up,” Du Preez rebutted to a question about the Sharks upping their game in the face of Kiwi opposition.
“But there is really a good vibe and they are keen to get out there and rectify last week’s performance.”
The Chiefs’ team announcement did indeed look very different to the one that was named for the Stormers the week before, which the Waikato side won in a low scoring affair.
All Blacks quartet Damian McKenzie, Brodie Retallick, Anton Lienert-Brown and Nathan Harris flew back to New Zealand to attend a North Island Camp.
However, the side is not lacking in skill, experience, or quality.
Veteran All Black Liam Messam starts, while Maori All Black Charlie Ngatai captains from outside centre having played fullback last week. Damien McKenzie’s brother, Marty, takes over his No 10 jersey while the powerful Sean Whanui will look to stamp his authority on the game.