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    NZ challenge excites Sharks

    2016-04-13 11:27

    Durban - The Sharks have put last week’s 24-9 home loss to the Lions behind them and are excited at the prospect of touring in New Zealand.

    On their tour, the Sharks will face the Blues (Auckland, April 16), Highlanders (Dunedin, April 22) and Chiefs (Hamilton, April 29).

    “The guys are upbeat, although obviously very disappointed after the weekend,” director of rugby Gary Gold told the Sharks’ official website.

    “A bit of game management against the Lions could have helped us, but at the end of the day, like a win, we can’t linger long after a loss. We have an unbelievably tough challenge ahead of us and all our focus is now on the Blues. What’s in the past is in the past.”

    Gold admitted that there is pressure on the team to perform on tour, but that it’s no different from the pressure they’ve been under to perform for the first five games anyway.

    “This is an exciting opportunity, we know there are people who have and who will write us off, but we are confident that we tour well and hoping we can really surprise a few people with some improved performances.”

    With the February weather behind them, the cooler climate of New Zealand could well be where the Sharks really show their potential. But cooler weather doesn’t necessarily translate into perfect conditions and

    “The heat’s not the issue, it’s the humidity in Durban. And going to New Zealand, there’s a very good chance it’s going to rain. But depending on how you see things, and if you’re an optimist - which we choose to be - then you’ll see us as having had good practice for the conditions.

    “From a ball in hand perspective we should find it more comfortable to play without the humidity and slippery ball.”

    And coming up against a team that, like the rest of their compatriots, love to attack, Gold is aware of the need to play attacking rugby too.

    “It’s well-documented that the pace of the New Zealand teams is around an attacking plan with a very high skill-base, particularly around the off-loading game and using the full length of the field.

    “When they do have ball in hand, we need to manage that and when we have possession, it’s for us to make the very best of it. To build the phases and put them under pressure. One thing about the New Zealand teams is that they don’t want to come out and defend, they much prefer being on the attack.”

    Gold believes that under Tana Umaga, the former Hurricanes and All Black great, and now Blues coach, that this is Blues team that seem to be more settled than in recent years.

    “I think the Blues have turned the corner this season, I thought they played really well against the Chiefs on the weekend and they will be very disappointed not to have won that game.

    “They will be a real threat.”

    Saturday’s clash at Eden Park is scheduled for 09:35 (SA time).

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    Fixtures

    Saturday, 17 February 2018
    • Stormers v Jaguares, Cape Town 15:05
    • Lions v Sharks, Emirates Airlines Park 17:15
    Friday, 23 February 2018
    • Highlanders v Blues, 08:35
    • Rebels v Reds, AAMI Park 10:45
    Saturday, 24 February 2018
    • Sunwolves v Brumbies, Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium 06:15
    • Crusaders v Chiefs, 08:35
    • Waratahs v Stormers, Allianz Stadium 10:45
    • Lions v Jaguares, Emirates Airlines Park 15:05
    • Bulls v Hurricanes, Loftus Versfeld 17:15

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