Durban - The Sharks are back at Kings Park this weekend when they host traditional rivals the Blue Bulls in what is expected to be their toughest Currie Cup derby clash of the tournament.
After three rounds when they had the opportunity to implement and then refine the brand of rugby they wish to play - they now know that this match is all about accuracy in play, but also not standing back from the physical challenge they know they can expect from the visiting Pretoria side.
Captain Keegan Daniel believes that the team is in a good place and ready for what is to come.
“We set out a plan at the beginning of the tournament and outlined our values and the culture we’re trying to create,” Daniel told the Sharks’ official website. “We knew the first three games were going to be a build-up to the bigger games and to try play the best rugby we could. We probably weren’t as clinical in all our performances, but after three weeks, we’ll take the 15 log points we’ve earned.
“The main thing is that the guys are enthusiastic and keen to play rugby and change takes time, but we are seeing the fruits of our labour in the style of rugby we’re playing.”
One area the Sharks will take confidence against a Bulls’ style of rugby that may have evolved to more attack, but still basing itself on a dominant pack, is in their own set of forwards and the continuity in playing personnel since the Super Rugby tournament.
“This hasn’t always been the case, in the past we lost a number of players to higher levels, but fortunately this season there haven’t been too many disruptions and those guys that have come in have added massive value. The foundation is set by the forwards and our set-piece is really functioning well, so with that, we’re able to build facets of our game.
“We have a relatively young side, the average age is about 22 which is exceptionally young, but they can express themselves when the forwards are taking control and we’ve been really happy with the way our set-piece has gone in the last three games.”
Given that this match marks the second phase of the Sharks’ campaign, having seen off the smaller, yet no less competitive, teams, coach Robert du Preez admits that they have real challenges ahead.
“I’ve said that we want to improve every week and play how we want to play, and we’re going to stick with that; it’s important that we keep improving.”
He also acknowledges that the Blue Bulls offer something different to what’s been thrown at them the last three games.
“It’s going to be tough, they are a very well-balanced side.”
However, it’s very much about his own team that is his primary focus, and making sure the players are able to successfully implement the style they have clearly embraced.
“Playing more rugby - with more ball in hand - means we have made more errors and that’s one area we need to improve on. We need to cut down on our mistakes.”
Kick-off is scheduled for 18:10 on Saturday evening.
15 Curwin Bosch, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Inny Radebe, 9 Stefan Ungerer, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Keegan Daniel (captain), 5 Ruan Botha, 4 Etienne Oosthuizen, 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Franco Marais, 1 Dale Chadwick
Substitutes: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 John-Hubert Meyer, 18 JC Astle, 19 Jean Deysel, 20 Hanco Venter, 21 S'bura Sithole, 22 Rhyno Smith
15 Duncan Matthews, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Dries Swanepoel, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Jamba Ulengo, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Arno Botha (captain), 7 Jannes Kirsten, 6 Ruan Steenkamp, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 RG Snyman, 3 Jacobie Adriaanse, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Lizo Gqoboka
Substitutes: 16 Bandise Maku, 17 Martin Dreyer, 18 Nic de Jager, 19 Hanro Liebenberg, 20 Andre Warner, 21 Joshua Stander, 22 Ulrich Beyers