One of the things that John Plumtree would have drummed into his players this past week would have been the importance of not being complacent this coming Friday. The Sharks simply have to be focused on the immediate task at hand on Friday night.
Hopefully the memories of recent games against shall we say lower reputation opposition will be enough to dispel any notion of complacency in the Sharks camp. The Sharks really struggled to overcome a game Pumas side in their last untelevised Friday game and it seems like they were in the end lucky to win that match despite being dominated for large parts of it. Lest we forget the result of another Friday evening game was a humbling at the hands of the Griquas in Kimberley. A stronger side than the Pumas on paper and notoriously difficult to beat in Kimberley for the Sharks but certainly not one the Sharks were expected to lose by 21 points to.
That brings us to this weekend’s game. The Leopards look to have improved this year and beat the same Pumas that the Sharks struggled to beat as well as pushing the table topping Lions quite close at the Coke tin. This is by no means an easy game although the Sharks will be expected to win handsomely. The thing is, Currie cup tournaments, especially in World Cup years are generally more competitive with not much between the teams and the margin for error between any of the teams is really quite slim.
For the Sharks there is so much to lose were this game not to finish with the desired result. The Lions have opened up a four point gap at the top of the table and the Sharks would not want them to extend their lead. The Sharks would rather want that lead to be cut or may even overtake the Joburg side if the latter fail to get any points from their Newlands clash with WP.
There is also much to gain. Looking across the teamsheet there are a number of names which stand out in that this game could be important for their medium to long term futures. The centre pairing is the obvious combination that needs to step up their game and lay a marker with a good performance. Meyer Bosman needs to find the form that he had in the latter stages of Super rugby. Marius Joubert needs to find the form that he had when . . . uh, let’s just say he needs to find form. This is a perfect opportunity for these guys to find some confidence and play well in a black and white jersey. Conrad Hoffmann has had precious few playing chances since relocating to Durban. He unfortunately got injured not long into his Sharks debut and now gets another chance to stake his claim on the Sharks scrumhalf berth. Sibusiso Sithole would also obviously like to continue the good start to his Currie cup career and put in another good performance in a position where the Sharks are well stocked.
Among the forwards, the tight five needs to put in a good showing with young props Dale Chadwick and Wiehan Herbst given a chance to shine while young Anton Bresler is another young member of the Sharks tight five with a weight of responsibility on his shoulders. These were the areas where the Sharks struggled against the Pumas and Griquas and these young players need to play more like how they did against Province at a wet Newlands. Marcell Coetzee has been in fantastic form for the Sharks this Currie cup and the onus is once again on him to keep high level of performance up and put in another strong showing.
In a team with so many young players and new Sharks, there is naturally a need for the seasoned players to provide leadership and make the jobs of the players around them that much easier. Craig Burden needs to be a guiding light for his young props. Ross Skeate needs to take charge of the lineouts again and keep putting in the hard yards which were so effective last weekend. Jacques Botes as stand in captain has a big job on his hands to lead not only the loose trio but the side as a whole. Freddie Michalak will be a very important part of the backline and will need to call on all of his experience to make the jobs of his scrumhalf and centres easier. Odwa Ndungane brings real solidity to the back three and will need to make sure that he really steps up and leads the players around him.
All in all, there is plenty to play for this weekend. Not only points for the log but there are a few players with lots to prove and others that need to take responsibility as seniors and make the jobs easier for those around them. All the best Sharks, roll on Friday eveningTweet