Sharks look to nullify Kerevi threat
Durban - The Sharks can expect nothing less than all out war from the Reds when the two sides meet up in their opening 2017 Super Rugby match in a blistering hot Brisbane on Friday morning.
Both sides will be looking to get their respective campaigns off to a winning start, with the home team, in a rebuilding phase, no doubt wanting to impress their supporters who have had to deal with tough times of late.
Their team finished in 15th place out of 18 sides last year and a major recruitment process has been implemented to help restore former glories.
The Sharks, meanwhile, finished in a creditable eighth position to advance to the qualifiers in 2016, but they will be hoping for an even better display in 2017.
Backline coach Sean Everitt, speaking from Brisbane where the team has been preparing for their match, said his side was expecting a "total onslaught" from the Reds.
"They have a transformed squad, headed by a born-and-bred Brisbane man in hooker Stephen Moore (the current Wallabies captain), who has returned home from the Brumbies," Everitt said on the Sharks website.
"Then they also have (loose forwards) George Smith and Scott Higganbotham back in Brisbane but as a backline coach the player I have identified as being a major threat is centre Samu Kerevi."
The giant Fijian weighs in at 108kg and stands 1.86m tall. He will likely come up against Sharks centre Andre Esterhuizen to contend with, who at 1.94m tall and weighing in at an impressive 112kg is no shrinking violet.
At only 22 (to Kerevi’s 23), Esterhuizen might seem like a youngster, but he has been in the system for some time now and has shown steady improvement each campaign.
Another appetising contest will be between Pat Lambie and Quade Cooper, the respective flyhalves. Everitt said that Lambie has been walking around with a smile on his face all tour.
"He has mentioned that he has not made a Sharks Super Rugby tour since 2013 because of injury. He is just so pleased to be here and the players are feeding off his enthusiasm. He is a really popular captain," said Everitt.
"We know how clever Cooper can be, and he has a new scrumhalf partner in Nick Frisby (succeeding Will Genia), who has a beautiful pass, so we have to get up quickly on defence (to shut down Cooper and Kerevi)."
The Sharks trained in relentless fashion in unrelenting Durban summer heat over the course of the three month pre-season block and are ready for the weather conditions of Friday’s match.
Everitt said that the weather in Brisbane was as intense as it has been in Durban for most of February.
"The weather here is a replica of Durban, so we know what to expect, and our three-month pre-season in these conditions has prepared us well," he said.
"The weather prediction for Friday evening in Brisbane is 30 degrees with high humidity, so it won’t be anything we are not accustomed to.
"We know how to play in these conditions and while our stated intent is to play attacking rugby, we have to be sensible in not risking handling errors in vulnerable parts of the field.
"We want to attack, and if the opportunity is in front of us, regardless of field position, we will look to keep ball in hand, but if we have to kick then we will."