Johannesburg - The Sharks have tended to make some slow starts to Currie Cup campaigns down the years, but after losing to the champion Cheetahs in their opener there will be no room for any mistakes when they host the Pumas in Durban on Saturday.
According to the SuperSport website, the Mpumalanga team are fresh from a giant-killing act against an admittedly second-string Emirates Lions team last weekend and the Sharks who were part of it will have uncomfortable memories of the unexpected first-match hiccup they experienced against Griquas at Kings Park a couple of seasons ago.
However, the Sharks will be strengthened this week by the return of players who were involved in the Super Rugby team’s epic bid to beat the Lions in the Johannesburg quarterfinal a few days ago. Hooker Franco Marais is hopeful that the team will be able to seamlessly carry the intensity of that match into the Kings Park clash.
“Hopefully we can pick up where we left off against the Lions in terms of intensity,” said Marais, who played as a replacement at Ellis Park after battling injury for part of the closing phase of the Super Rugby season.
“It is all up to us, it is up to the senior players to set the intensity. If you can’t get up for a Sharks Currie Cup game, then you shouldn’t be there.”
Those are interesting words from a player who is part of a team that has tended to blow hot and cold, and which was prevented from challenging for conference honours, and thus home ground advantage in the Super Rugby play-offs, by inconsistency. If the Sharks appear to take the day off sometimes in Super Rugby, how are they going to consistently be up for it at the lower Currie Cup level?
“We are keen and we feel we have a lot to prove, a lot of wrongs to fix,” said Marais.
“We did not do well last year (the Sharks failed to make the semifinals after a rare good start), so there are no excuses this year.”
Last week’s defeat in Bloemfontein can be written off as the Sharks were under-strength. With the Super Rugby players returning this week, this is where it starts, and the Kings Park faithful will be hoping that the promise of a high-intensity start to a competition the Sharks are eager to win is backed up on the field.
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