Last week, the Sharks had to prepare for a must-win match against the Lions, but this Saturday the shoe will be on the other foot when they encounter the Chiefs in Hamilton.
Craig Lewis writes for the Daily News that the Waikato team have been one of the most disappointing Kiwi franchises in the opening two rounds and after two away losses, a win at home is non-negotiable, something Sharks coach John Plumtree is only too aware of.
“This game will be huge for the Chiefs. If they don’t get a win at home you will just about be able to say they’re going to struggle to make the play-offs. However, we’ve got to get over a long trip and so it’s going to be a massive match for both teams.”
There is no doubt that the Sharks have arrived in New Zealand riding the crest of a wave after two successive wins, while the Chiefs are coming off the back of a particularly uninspiring performance against the Waratahs.
This is not to say the Sharks will not be feeling any pressure, though; they themselves will be placing huge emphasis on winning their first game on tour while looking to improve on defence as well as ensuring the basics of their game remain accurate.
“The players are really excited about being here,” Plumtree said from Auckland, where the team is staying at the Crowne Plaza.
“For me personally, it’s always a challenge coming back here with a team like this, I guess Ian Foster has been around for a while and I’m sure his planning will be pretty astute and they’ll be looking forward to getting at us.”
However, the Chiefs will certainly need to drastically improve their set-pieces, which were an absolute shambles in their loss to the Waratahs last weekend, something Foster has admitted to.
On the other hand, the Sharks have built up a lot of confidence from their proficiency at scrum-time during the opening couple of rounds.
“There’s nothing major that we should be scared of with regards to opposition forward packs on tour but we still have to keep performing well in this department,” Plumtree said.
“In particular with the Chiefs, they have so many running threats in their backline that if their forward pack gains some parity or gets on top of us, it could be a long day.
“We saw in 2008 how they scored 25 points against us even though we scored 47, you really have to go play well overseas if you want to get points.”
The Sharks spend this week in Auckland before heading to Hamilton on Friday, while next week they will base themselves in Taupo to prepare for the Blues.Tweet