Durban - The Sharks’ 53-0 Currie Cup defeat of the EP Kings on Saturday placed them firmly in contention for a top four finish, and ensured that they stay in the race for a home semi-final.
Despite the terrible conditions, hardly conducive to playing attacking rugby, a pragmatic approach, mixed with some exciting running rugby, meant the Sharks were able to score nine tries.
Not only did they attack with determination through very accurate play - made difficult by the wet and muddy ball - they also defended with energy and pride, keeping the Kings from troubling the scorers.
“We’re very pleased with the win and with the five points; I think the way we went about it was very good,” coach Robert du Preez told the Sharks’ official website.
“We stuck to what we said we wanted to do and it really worked. It showed that if you keep to your structures and remain patient, you can achieve your goals. It was a good win.”
Even with the torrential rain that bucketed down before kick-off, as well as during much of the game, the coach explained that this did not necessitate a major reshaping of their game plan just before the game, but they had certainly planned in advance that they might have to play slightly differently given the possible conditions.
“We knew all week that it was going to rain, so we prepared for that.”
Despite the tough conditions, the players were happy to give the ball some air and play attacking rugby, resulting in nine tries on the day.
“That was good, I thought the handling out there was great, in fact better than some of the other games we’ve played in dry conditions,” Du Preez said. “There was a massive effort and a huge concentration effort shown.”
A big cheer erupted when Pat Lambie took to the field and his return to rugby is a healthy boost to the Sharks playing stocks.
“I’m very happy for Pat to have now returned to action, although it wasn’t ideal for him to play in conditions like this, but he did well.”
Lambie’s return does mean that the next match - in two weeks’ time against the Lions after this coming weekend’s bye - provides a few selection headaches for the coaches, which Du Preez admitted was a nice problem to have.
“That’s exactly what we want, competition in our squad. It’s a good thing.”
The Sharks snow cast their attentions to the next challenge.
“Our last pool game in the competition is against the Lions, it’s going to be a massive game, but we have a bit of a break now. We’ll give the boys some time off, then it’s back to the drawing board.”
Part of that planning will be around the returning players who should hopefully be over their bumps and niggles ahead of the business end of the competition.
“Those guys who had injuries, like Keegan Daniel, Philip van der Walt and Stephan Lewies, they were always in the starting line-up and we’ll select the best team we can for the game against the Lions,” Du Preez confirmed. “If they’re ready, they have a good chance of being in the starting line-up.”
Continuity is important and for the final pool match, heading into the knock-out rounds that follow, the Sharks will be looking to maintain the team composition as much as possible, especially if they can have the three aforementioned players fit and available. Throw Lambie in the mix and Du Preez will probably be able to select his ideal team from the available squad.
But Lambie’s selection is not a fait accompli, and Du Preez confirmed that there will be discussions with SA Rugby to find out the Springboks’ plan for the flyhalf.