Durban - It may have been one of the toughest seasons the Sharks have endured in recent years, but it’s crucial that they finish their Super Rugby campaign on a high against the Stormers in Durban on Saturday, Director of Rugby Gold insists.
The Sharks enjoyed a late bye last weekend and to make up for the fact that no rugby was played, they started the week training as if they had played a game and then worked their way into a position to really close out the competition with a strong performance.
“We’ve had a hard week’s training, Monday was a very physical day, we tried to replicate how it would be had the guys had a game on the weekend,” Gold told Sharks website editor Michael Marnewick.
“On Monday the guys covered nearly 7 500m of running, a lot at high intensity and we’ve tapered it down towards the end of the week, hoping the guys can be fresh and ready and hit the road running on Saturday night.”
Finishing the tournament with a win would make a firm statement about the team’s desire to show their character.
“It is the same statement why it was important to beat the Reds and Rebels, and why it was important not to give up the fight on tour after two good performances against the Hurricanes and Waratahs. Teams do go through tough times; there will be critics, people who want to throw stones, that we’ll take on the chin. But the people that really matter know the challenges we’ve had, that it’s been a complicated year and the thing that would really frustrate them would be if team gave up and rolled over. That we’re not prepared to do.
“The statement a win would make is that it matters, whoever you’re playing. We have to pitch up and we owe it to the people who have been loyal to us through the bad times, we need to give them good times now.
“It is critically important that we put up a proper performance and finish this campaign on a high. Not for any other reason other than the fact that it would be three wins on the bounce and give us confidence moving into the next chapter of our lives.”
Looking back, although there have been disappointments; there are still some positives that can be taken out, particularly how the team never gave up.
“I can’t sit here and say I’m happy with where we’re sitting on the log, I’m not happy at all,” he admits.
“But in terms of the team and turning it around, I’m very proud of the character they’ve shown, I’m really appreciative of how the players have stuck together and stuck by us as a coaching staff; I never felt at any time that there was a divide between us and them. If there were issues, we spoke openly about them, and that helped us turn the corner - too late unfortunately.
“But there have been lots of positives, youngsters who we never thought would get Super Rugby experience and now they have six or seven games under the belt, that can only do them the world of good.”
Kick-off for Saturday’s clash at Kings Park is scheduled for 19:10.
15. Lwazi Mvovo, 14. Odwa Ndungane, 13. JP Pietersen, 12. Andre Esterhuizen, 11. S’bura Sithole, 10. Lionel Cronje, 9. Stefan Ungerer, 8. Renaldo Bothma, 7. Willem Alberts, 6. Marcell Coetzee, 5. Marco Wentzel (captain), 4. Etienne Oosthuizen, 3. Jannie du Plessis, 2. Bismarck du Plessis, 1. Tendai Mtawarira
Substitutes: 16. Franco Marais, 17. Dale Chadwick, 18. Lourens Adriaanse, 19. Lubabalo Mtyanda, 20. Khaya Majola, 21. Conrad Hoffmann, 22. Fred Zeilinga, 23. Heimar Williams
15 Robert du Preez, 14 Johnny Kotze, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Jaco Taute, 11 Pat Howard, 10 Kurt Coleman, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Nizaam Carr (captain), 7 Michael Rhodes, 6 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 5 Ruan Botha, 4 Jean Kleyn, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Michael Willemse, 1 Oli Kebble
Substitutes: 16 Neil Rautenbach, 17 Ali Vermaak, 18 Wilco Louw, 19 Jan de Klerk, 20 Siya Kolisi, 21 Godlen Masimla, 22 Seabelo Senatla, 23 Kobus van Wyk