This is such an obvious thing to point out that perhaps it’s not worthy of an article in its own right, but here goes anyway. While the CANSA fund-raising initiative is a great one – and one we as Sharks fans MUST all endorse wholeheartedly by giving generously and wearing pink to the game – it is critical that the Sharks team and management try to put the spectacle out of their minds as far as they possibly can, lest it become a distraction to winning this weekend’s crucial Currie Cup fixture against the Cheetahs.
While it’s weird to think that the Sharks may be up against it this weekend, given that they’re 8 points clear at the top of the log and have only lost 2 games in total, the reality is that the Cheetahs are the team coming into this game with form on their side. Plumtree has it spot on when he points out that the Sharks have played 80 minutes of good rugby in total over the last two week, although I think he’s possibly being a little generous to his team, who were only really good for 20 minutes against the Pumas – and decidedly average thereafter. The Sharks have based their run of good form this season on unstoppable, perpetual motion from the best forward pack in the competition and the resulting slew of good, quick ball has been put to good use by quick-thinking halfbacks Charl McLeod and Pat Lambie. Hardly surprising, then, that both McLeod and Lambie have seen their personal form tail off in step with an inexplicable waning of the pack performance in the last two games.
Fact is, on their last two games – and given that they’ve lost two key Springboks in Beast Mtawarira and Bismarck du Plessis – the Sharks pack looks like they will have an uphill battle handling the Cheetahs on Saturday, particularly given the vague interpretations of breakdown law that are referee Pro Legote’s forte. Playing into their hands to some degree may just be the fact that the Cheetahs are coming off an incredibly hard match against the Bulls and might still be a little tender. The Sharks, in contrast, were fortunate to report a clean bill of health after their Witbank adventure. What’s more they’ve had an extra day to recover. The Cheetahs seem determined to turn this affair into a grudge match of some sort and again, that is another sideshow in which the Sharks simply cannot afford to get involved. Lionel Mapoe may well be at the stadium, but he’ll be watching from the stands just like any other spectator (I hope he’ll be in pink!) and should not come into the Sharks’ thinking any more than any other spectator would.
If the Cheetahs want to make this personal, that’s fine. The Sharks must concentrate on playing rugby.
For the Durbanites, the equation really is very simple. They’ll need to go back to the basics of what has worked for them all Currie Cup season long. The forwards need to secure the ball – the backs need to run with it. Rinse and repeat until over the tryline. Then start again. Keeping possession is key and taking points when they’re on offer is the way to keep pressure on the opposition. Accuracy and patience on attack – something that has suddenly gone missing over the last two weeks – needs to be rediscovered (and fast) because the Cheetahs aren’t going to present a huge number of scoring chances like the Pumas would. If they can do these things, just like they have before, the Sharks will win. Allow the concentration to slip, though and it’s the Cheetahs who’ll be taking the points and the Sharks left looking at a tricky fixture in Johannesburg that could spell the end of their reign at the top of the log.
Let’s hope those pink jerseys don’t go their heads…Tweet