Durban - The Sharks have always been good tourists to the Antipodes, always embracing the time away as an opportunity to enjoy time together as a team and forge the kind of kinship required in a team sport.
The sense of camaraderie shared, encouraged by the coaching staff each year, has often translated into success. A team away from home can either implode or soar, often as a result of the mood in the camp. Lift the mood and spirits are lifted. Training becomes fun, even if arduous. And that all has a corresponding effect on how the team performs.
For wing Lwazi Mvovo, a veteran of overseas tours, this one is no different from the past.
“There’s a great vibe and atmosphere on tour,” he told the Sharks’ official website. “Last week was very important for us to get a win, which we did, and there is one more game which we hope will end off our tour on a high.”
This year, with the changes in the competition with more teams and more countries, the previous four-week tour has now been whittled down to three. When things aren’t going your way, you might wish for the tour to end, but when you’re making a real go of it, time tends to fade as a significant influence on the team’s mood.
To this end, he admits that the mental preparation for three-week tour is no different to if they were away for four weeks.
“A tour is a tour and the only thing that’s important is that you aim to win every game you play. I don’t believe there is much difference preparing for a three or four week tour. Our focus each week is on the game that lies ahead, so it isn’t really something that goes through our minds, whether we have one or two or three games after this one. We are concentrating on this week’s game ahead, and when it is over, our focus shifts to the next challenge.
“It’s really important to take it one step at a time. We have the Chiefs this weekend, it’s an important game and for us, that’s all that matters, preparing for them.”
Some might look at the logs and suggest that this is going to be a match between the teams boasting top class attack and top class defence. Their 305 points scored in eight matches not only puts the Chiefs at the top of their conference, but is also the highest points’ accumulation of any team.
The Sharks’ 132 points conceded in their eight games is bettered only by the Stormers (126), and almost 60 better than the Chiefs. Nevertheless, while Mvovo admits that their defence gives them confidence, the game is not won defending and they are working hard at developing their attacking game as well.
“Obviously we pride ourselves on our defence and have worked very hard on getting it to the state it is,” he says. “Our defence gives us a lot of confidence, but, in saying that, we are also working very hard on our attack.
“The Chiefs are one of the best attacking sides and we know it’s going to be a titanic battle, but one we’re up for.”
Coming away with a positive result would be a fitting end to their tour, and something they believe would boost morale greatly for the future.
“It would be a huge boost for us. We lost a few games that we were really unhappy about, so winning on Friday would be great for the team. That means working hard all week, and working hard for each other.”
Friday’s clash in New Plymouth is scheduled for 09:35 (SA time).
15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Toni Pulu, 13 Seta Tamanivalu, 12 Anton Lienert-Brown, 11 Sam McNicol, 10 Aaron Cruden (co-captain), 9 Brad Weber, 8 Michael Leitch, 7 Sam Cane (co-captain), 6 Taleni Seu, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Dominic Bird, 3 Hiroshi Yamashita, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Mitchell Graham
Substitutes: 16 Nathan Harris, 17 Siate Tokolahi, 18 Kane Hames, 19 James Tucker, 20 Lachlan Boshier, 21 Kayne Hammington, 22 Andrew Horrell, 23 Shaun Stevenson
15. Willie le Roux, 14. JP Pietersen, 13. Paul Jordaan, 12. Andre Esterhuizen, 11. Lwazi Mvovo, 10. Garth April, 9. Michael Claassens, 8. Daniel du Preez, 7. Jean-Luc du Preez, 6. Keegan Daniel (captain), 5. Stephan Lewies, 4. Etienne Oosthuizen, 3. Lourens Adriaanse, 2. Kyle Cooper, 1. Dale Chadwick
Substitutes: 16. Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17. Thomas du Toit, 18. Coenie Oosthuizen, 19. Hyron Andrews, 20. Jean Deysel, 21. Stefan Ungerer, 22. Joe Pietersen, 23. Odwa Ndungane