Although the Crusaders fought back to secure a draw
when the Sharks were in a winning position in Christchurch last weekend,
the Sharks are unbeaten after two matches in Australasia. They beat the
Waratahs in Sydney in their first game, the first time they had got the
better of the Australian franchise on their home field since 2000.
are only three matches on this tour as opposed to the usual four (the
Sharks and Lions played four last season with the Stormers and Bulls
playing three, and this year that is reversed), flank Van der Walt
believes it will still be a great achievement to finish the tour
unbeaten by beating the Chiefs in their final match in Hamilton on
“It would be massive if we could beat the Chiefs because
I don’t think any of us have completed an unbeaten tour before,” said
Van der Walt from the south island resort of Queenstown where the Sharks
are this week mixing their training with some much needed off-field fun
to refresh minds and bodies.
“When you add the fact that we have
tough opposition on this tour in the Waratahs, Crusaders and Chiefs,
then it would add up to something very special. If we could win this
next game and come away with 10 points, that would be great.”
Conversely, the 28-year-old knows that a defeat will undo much of the ground made in the first two games.
lot of the emotional needs and success of the tour depends on this game
because even though we beat the Waratahs and drew with the Crusaders,
if we lose against the Chiefs it would take the joy away, so this game
is hugely important to us.”
The Sharks have become notorious for
the slumps that almost inevitably follow their best performances, and
the Hamilton game is of the sort where you’d almost anticipate the
Sharks falling back into their old habit. They tend to reserve their
best performances for when it is least expected, and given the Chiefs’
poor form this season you’d expect the Sharks to win this one.
However, coach Du Preez has seen the sequence play itself out enough to be extra vigilant this week.
“This week’s game is massive for us, we know what is at stake and the boys have a lot of belief now,” said Du Preez.
have too much respect for the Chiefs to take them lightly. They are one
of the teams who have scored the most points in the competition so we
know what they can do from an attack point of view but just lately they
have brought their defence out. It will be a tough battle but we are
prepared for that battle.”
Du Preez added that the effort put into
the defensive effort against the Crusaders showed the character and
spirit that existed within the team, something that has been questioned
lately because of the way the Sharks have floundered in some home games
where they appeared to be flat.
“The players have been immense. I
have always from the word go that we have a great plan from an attack
and defence point of view. Against the Crusaders we showed how much we
care for each other, and that is the bottom line,” said the coach.
know how tough it is to tour and how tough this competition is. To beat
the Waratahs fo the first time in 19 years away from home was a great
feat. We are very pleased with where we are.”
The job isn’t finished though, and Van der Walt thinks it’s imperative that the Sharks apply early pressure and get ahead.
have identified that when teams have applied early pressure it is
possible to get ahead early, and because their game is based so heavily
on off-loading they will hopefully make a lot of errors if they are
chasing the game,” said Van der Walt.
The Chiefs have already lost
to one South African team, the Lions, at home this season, but at the
same time they hammered the South African log leaders, the Bulls, at
Loftus two months ago. That sums up the Chiefs, they are hot and cold,
and you’d be able to say the same about the Sharks, who have done well
on tour yet have four home defeats in six starts on their record.
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