Durban - The Sharks are so determined to eradicate the handling errors that blighted them against the Reds last week that they have elected to take a tough line on the individuals responsible for future mistakes.
Springbok prop Coenie Oosthuizen didn't exactly spell out what would happen to a player who drops the ball during the squad's three-match tour of Australasia, but it seems they can expect to find themselves forced to spend extra time on the training field working on their shortcomings.
In a teleconference call with the Durban media, Oosthuizen made it clear that individuals would in future be made accountable for their mistakes.
"Look, no player goes onto the field trying to make handling errors," said Oosthuizen.
"Mistakes will be made. But if it is a consecutive error that you make on your part then it is an obvious work-on for you. The handling has been unacceptable and we are doing something to address the situation.
"Going forward there will be more of an emphasis on keeping the ball in certain situations. Players will be made accountable for handling errors. There is no way you should make handling errors if you focus on catching and passing the ball. The responsibility is on two sides, the person who catches and the person who passes. In other words you can't just blame one side, the pass has to be good too."
Oosthuizen was rested for the Sharks' worst performance of the season, which was the 50 point humiliation at home against the Jaguares.
But as he pointed out, a physical rest doesn't mean there is necessarily a mental rest, and the defeat to the Argentine side was a frustrating to the players who watched from the stands as it was to the team that took the field on the day.
"We get paid to play rugby, that is our job, and it does help with your mentality and looking after your body if you take a a rest. But we got hurt as a team that week, so there wasn't really a mental break for us (fellow prop Tendai Mtawarira also sat out that game). In the following game, against the Reds, we felt we had to step up and rectify the situation, but unfortunately we didn't do that. So it was a big mistake on our behalf, and it leaves us in a situation where we simply have to step up now that we are on tour."
The Sharks start their tour on Saturday against the Waratahs in Sydney and Oosthuizen admits that as well as the focus on the handling errors there has also been necessary focus on upholding the team's morale following two successive home defeats.
"When you lose consecutive games the morale has to be worked extremely hard on for it can only get worse if you start doubting yourself," said the prop.
"It is not the belief within the team that we are not good enough. Morale is still high and coach Rob (Robert du Preez) has done a tremendous job in ensuring that is the case. We didn't want to lose last week, but the game just never went our way. There were numerous opportunities to finish off but we didn't use them.
"It will be a hell of a battle on Saturday. The Waratahs are a famous side who are known for their running rugby. They also have a strong forward pack. We are going to have to be better at the breakdown than we have been or it is going to be messy. They will also cut us down out wide. I have a lot of respect for Australian teams."
Oosthuizen said though that being on tour could just inspire a change of fortunes for the Durbanites.
"It is a whole different ball game on tour. Obviously some guys miss their family and children, in a negative way, but in a positive way they can be devoted to the team, and not be distracted, and for a team morale viewpoint that can be phenomenal. There is no better environment to work on team culture than when you are on tour.
"So in that sense this tour has come at the right time. It gives us an opportunity to really get stuck into each other. The coaches are here, so we've got the right tools, and the time. It is a case of sticking together and working together. If we do that we will be okay."
The team for the Waratahs game will be named on Thursday.
It looks likely that the Sharks will feature a bolstered forward pack against the Waratahs, with Ruan Botha, Tyler Paul, Jean-Luc du Preez and Akker van der Merwe all coming into the reckoning for starting places.
Coach Du Preez hinted earlier in the week that there could be rotational changes at the back, with Robert du Preez junior overdue for a rest after playing no-stop rugby since early last year and wing Makazole Mapimpi also likely to benefit from a week off.
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