The Sharks came through the most testing of times against the Hurricanes on Saturday without picking up any more injuries and are likely to field an unchanged squad against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
John Bishop reports in The Witness
The Sharks stayed alive, and won 33-17, on 30 percent of the game – in terms of territory and possession and according to assistant coach Grant Bashford, made three times more tackles than the Hurricanes.
“The tackle count was about 230 to the 80 made by the Hurricanes which shows just how effective our defence was,” he said on Sunday. He said that it continued to be a concern that the Sharks were playing so much of every game without the ball.
“But we did make silly handling errors when we finally got into the Hurricanes half and that kept breaking our attacking momentum. Against the Cheetahs we just have to be more patient and look after the ball better.”
Bashford said there were no additional injury concerns after the weekend – “and that makes a change for a Monday morning.”
The Sharks hope to have Ruan Pienaar and JP Pietersen back after the bye on April 25 and Bashford said it was expected that big flank Jean Deysel, recovering from his knee ligament injury, would play off the bench against the Crusaders in Durban on April 18.
He said he was delighted with the display of two of the newer faces in the squad, inside centre Riaan Swanepoel and wing Luzuko Vulindlu.
“Riaan did exceptionally well in taking the ball up and in defence, and he was up against a world-class centre in Ma’a Nonu. And Luzuko also settled in quickly and made a big impact. With the Sharks XV also excelling in the Vodacom Cup, it showed we have the systems to create depth in the squad.”
There was a suggestion at the weekend that the Sharks had become predictable in their approach but Hurricanes head coach Colin Cooper, for one, did not agree.
“Even if you know what the Sharks are going to do, you still have to stop them. We knew they had a strong kicking game, and we knew they attacked from the turnovers, and we prepared for that. But we still couldn’t stop them scoring three tries. They have the players to do certain things and they do it well.”Tweet