Sharks wary of 'X-factor' Reds
Durban - Sharks assistant coach Grant Bashford insists the Reds are formidable opponents, with or without their Wallaby flyhalf Quade Cooper, as the two sides prepare for their Super Rugby meeting in Durban on Saturday.
The 23-year-old, a key figure when the Reds won the competition last season, is currently recovering from knee surgery after sustaining the injury during last year’s World Cup.
His team have coped admirably without him so far, winning their opening three matches against the Waratahs, Force and Rebels respectively, with stand-in Mike Harris doing well in his absence.
“I think Quade Cooper’s unique, but Mike Harris brings a different threat,” Bashford said on Tuesday.
“He’s a big boy, he kicks the ball and him and (Will) Genia are doing well with their kicking out of hand. But the Reds are full of threats. (Digby) Ioane is a handful all by himself, (Dom) Shipperley’s going well and they’ve also got Luke Morahan at the back, so their entire backline is scattered with X-factor players.
“It’s going to be a real challenge for us this weekend.”
Bashford conceded the men from Queensland were winning without playing their best rugby, warning the Sharks would need to be on the alert.
“I think they themselves would not be happy with the way they’ve been tracking,” Bashford said.
“But the signs of a championship team is that when it’s not going so well, you’re still managing to win.
“They came from behind in the last minute against the Waratahs, so there definitely seems to be a belief in this group that no matter how they’re going, they’ll somehow find a way to win.”
The defending champions have also not won in Durban since 2004 and Bashford felt it would be further incentive for them to claim success over the weekend, the last match for the hosts before a tough four-match tour of Australia and New Zealand.
The Sharks, who won their first match of the season on Saturday when they beat the Lions, confirmed on Tuesday that Springbok forward Jean Deysel and scrumhalf Conrad Hoffmann, who have missed the start of the campaign due to injury, will feature for the Vodacom Cup side this week.
Captain Keegan Daniel (ankle) and vice-captain Bismarck du Plessis (knee) both have minor injuries, but are expected to be fit, while Ross Skeate (groin) faces a Thursday fitness test.
Coach John Plumtree said he hoped the weekend's victory, after losing to the Bulls and Stormers, would help kickstart their campaign.
“I would hope so (it will give us more confidence to push on),” he added.
“When you lose two games so early, you really want to steer clear of losing any more games, so we’re pleased that we beat the Lions, but the Reds are going to present something different.