Mediocre Sharks must find extra gear ... fast!

    2018-03-20 09:31

    Lloyd Burnard

    Cape Town - In the build-up to the start of the 2018 Super Rugby season, the Sharks were tipped by numerous critics to be a force. 

    It seems to happen every year.

    Now, just five weeks into the competition, the Durbanites run the risk of seeing their season run out of gas before the half-way mark. 

    Their only win in four matches so far has come against the Sunwolves at Kings Park a week after a frustrating draw at the same venue against the Waratahs. 

    This past weekend, coach Robert du Preez looked on as his side dished up arguably their worst showing of the season as they fell to a 24-17 defeat to the Brumbies in Canberra. 

    Even more disappointing than the result was the performance that went with it and, in the end, a losing bonus point was probably more than the Sharks deserved. 

    They offered very little on attack and seemed to lack the required intensity for most of the 80 minutes. The Brumbies, very clearly, wanted it more and left with the spoils. 

    Things don't get any easier for the Sharks, either. 

    On Friday they take on a rejuvenated Rebels in Melbourne before travelling to the Highlanders and the Hurricanes.

    That will bring an end to a month-long, four-match tour that has gotten off to a terrible start. 

    According to hooker Franco Marais, who has fallen out of favour over the last two weeks with Du Preez backing Akker van der Merwe and Chiliboy Ralepelle instead, the Sharks have been nowhere near good enough this season. 

    And while they were woeful against the Brumbies, it was their performance against the Waratahs in Durban where they blew a lead late that really riled Du Preez.

    "He was upset after that game," Marais told Sport24 from Melbourne on Tuesday. 

    "On Saturday (after the Brumbies), he was more open-minded. He spoke to us individually and then called in the 12 senior guys to talk about what was going wrong.

    "We're definitely not playing to our potential at the moment. We're probably playing at a five out of 10. We're more disappointed in our own individual performances than anything else."

    Marais was dropped after the Waratahs game and has looked on from the sidelines for the past two weekends.

    He was instrumental for the Sharks in 2017 and even got his name into the Springbok conversation at one point, but Marais knows better than anyone that he has not been playing well in 2018.

    "Whatever the coach thinks is best for the team we have to stick with," he said.

    "My own individual performances haven't been good enough over the last two weeks against the Lions and Waratahs, so I knew that I had to step it up. Hopefully I'll get an opportunity this week to prove myself."

    The season is still young, but already there is a feeling that the Sharks must win on Friday to get their playoff aspirations back on track.  

    The Stormers, who have already completed their Australasian tour, look to be finding their feet while the Lions are comfortably ahead at the top of the South African Conference. 

    The Sharks need to keep up.

    "It's an absolute must-win match for us, but we're not putting so much pressure on ourselves," Marais said.

    "We just want to play to the best our ability because we haven't reached that standard enough this season. That's probably the biggest goal for this weekend.

    "If you look at our squad on paper it's probably one of the better squads in this competition, but you have to have that fight in you to want to win those individual battles on game day. It's something we want to rectify against the Rebels."

    The match kicks off at 10:45 (SA time). 

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