For Sharks lock Steven Sykes, the Vodacom Super 14 couldn’t come quick enough as he itches to get stuck in and start the tournament which gets under way next Saturday when The Sharks host the Chiefs at The Absa Stadium Durban.
Article courtesy www.sharksrugyb.co.za
Although there have been some negative reports about The Sharks preseason games, he isn’t particularly fazed at the results – especially considering the fact that no log points are to be gained just yet.
“I don’t think you can read too much into the results of our warm-up games [against the Western Force and Stormers in Cape Town last week] we were all a bit rusty, hadn’t played for ages and I think it’s actually quite nice that every one is writing us off for the Vodacom Super 14,” he admits. “But we’re really looking forward to it.”
Last year The Sharks started the tournament on a high, delivering victory after victory to the extent where the New Zealand media had found themselves a premature winner, one scribe even writing, ‘We could save ourselves a lot of time and money and give the Super 14 trophy to The Sharks right now’ after another successful outing. However, things didn’t quite work out but the big Sharks lock admits that 2010 is going to be different.
His retort is brief, to the point and emphatic: “I think we possibly lost a bit of focus last year but we definitely won’t make the same mistakes again this year.”
Looking back at the Stormers warm-up game, he points out that, “It was a close game but I think we held our own in the contact area. I read that we were bullied there but that was possibly not the same game they were referring to! We just took our foot off the pedal in the second half, made stupid mistakes and they scored a couple of tries from that.”
This year, the referees’ emphasis will be on policing the breakdown to the point where the defending team is going to be penalised a lot more than in previous years, to the extent that positive and attacking play will be rewarded. This suits a team like The Sharks down to the ground.
“We’ve been training hard on the breakdown area and will just try to improve.”
He admits that it could be difficult for fetchers like Richie McCaw, Heinrich Brussouw, Schalk Burger, Phil Waugh, George Smith and the like who revel in stealing ball at the tackle area, but might find themselves on the wrong side of the law in 2010.
“They’re so used to stealing ball, but we’ve devised methods of preventing them from doing that and with the penalties it’s going to be really difficult for them to take ball away from us.
“The attacking side will get more leeway now, and we’re a side who like to play a bit from loose ball, so our backs will certainly create some magic for us.”
With just over a week to go before the Vodacom Super 14 opener against the Chiefs, he admits that the enthusiasm levels are high.
“The nerves are OK and confidence levels are good because we’ve worked hard in the preseason and I think we’re all just looking forward to it. There is a lot of competition for places so we all have to be on our toes this year.”
Looking ahead to the tournament as a whole, each week presents a new challenge and for Sykes, there are no easy games. “The Chiefs who we play in the first game are always tough opposition, although they tend to struggle early on – we saw last year they lost a couple of early games, but went on to play in the final. But every game is going to be tough.”Tweet