SHARKS SHARPEN UP

The Mercury - - FRONT PAGE - PICTURE: HOWARD CLE­LAND PIX

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.

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