Revenge will be a strong motivation for the Sharks this week, along with pride in preserving their unbeaten record, as they turn their attention to the Brumbies team that out-thought and outplayed them last year.
“If we can win this one, it will be retribution for us,” coach Dick Muir said on Sunday. “That loss to the Brumbies really hurt the guys, and it temporarily derailed our campaign. We never got out of the starting blocks in that game – because they did not let us and we were also missing in action.”
Mike Greenaway writes in The Mercury that the Sharks spent Sunday in recovery mode at their base at Coogee beach in Sydney. They had had a tough day of travel on Saturday, departing their Dunedin hotel at 7am and then flying to Wellington, then to Auckland and finally on to Sydney.
Although it was overcast with intermittent rain on Sunday, the Sharks were pleased to be back at a beach not unlike those of Durban, and they got the Highlanders’ game out of their system with a session of body surfing.
The Sharks went into last year’s game against the Brumbies unbeaten after six games and having thumped the Hurricanes the week before, earning their first bonus point in the process, but then failed to fire against the Australians and were still shell-shocked in Perth the following week, losing to the Force in their first tour game.
“The Brumbies certainly put us off our stride, so this year we would like to make amends, and this time there is no chance of us underestimating them, which was part of the problem last season,” Muir said.
On Saturday night the Brumbies versus Blues match was watched with obvious interest in the team hotel, and the top performance of the Brumbies in beating the Blues in Auckland rid the Sharks of any possible complacency there might have been.
“The Brumbies’ game plan was spot on,” Muir said. “The way they closed the Blues down, not allowing them to play, reminds me of how we felt when we played the Brumbies last year. Also, what they did to us last year was nullify our rolling maul, which had been so good the week before against the Hurricanes.”
This season the ELVs have negated that strength of the Sharks because there are fewer penalties, thus fewer kicks to the corner, and fewer line-outs from which to launch that maul.
But the ELVs provide the Sharks with more opportunities to scrum, which is an alternative they can opt for from free kicks.
“But I also think that we are generally more versatile in the forwards this season,” Muir adds.
And against the Highlanders, the Sharks’ backline showed a greater appetite for adventure, which has pleased Muir no end.
“I believe our backline has turned the corner,” he says. “We are now on the right track with our attack. It does not worry me that the backline was not the finished article against the Highlanders – the main thing is that we have shifted towards a more positive mindset, and we can now grow.”
Muir says the Sharks aim to escalate their attacking ambitions even more in Canberra on Saturday, and with the Brumbies being one of the most attacking teams in the competition, the game should produce fireworks.
“I have a feeling it is going to be a great game,” Muir says.
“The Brumbies will be very confident after beating the Blues away, and they have been lifted by the return of senior backs in Stirling Mortlock and Mark Gerrard, while the Sharks want to set the record straight after losing in Durban last year.”Tweet