A gruelling session with the Sharks

2015-01-31 00:00

AS a rugby scribe, I have the privilege of watching and writing about the game while keeping a safe distance from the gladiators on the field.

But, much to my delight and slight terror, I was given the opportunity to put down the pen and enter the fray with the Sharks on Thursday night in a pre-season clash against local club College Rovers, where I play.

Our two 25-minute chukkas formed part of a club vs provincial double-header alongside Durban Collegians.

Watching from the press box at King’s Park may be my usual position during the rugby season, but my first-hand experience playing against the Sharks gave a new-found respect for the athletes I interview and write about.

A lot is said about the speed of Southern Hemisphere rugby, both in Super Rugby and the Rugby Championship and I can now attest to that fact. While there are great differences between ­amateur and professional rugby, the speed of the game was mind-blowing.

Playing in the second chukka, we ­received the kick-off from the Sharks, who were quickly breathing down our necks as we gathered the ball and cleared our lines.

The ensuing lineout was just the ­beginning of a long-period on defence for me and my club team-mates.

The Sharks pinned us back with strong ball carries and lightning-fast rucks. Before we could scramble defensively, the ball would be in the hands of the outside backs, who made good use of the space out wide.

Not faulting our commitment, the Sharks seemed two steps ahead of us. The most we could do was put our bodies in the way of the oncoming onslaught while we waited for a few scraps of possession that came our way.

Doing our best to stick to our gameplan and structures, we carried the ball in earnest but the Sharks were quick to contest the breakdowns and often turned-over possession, putting us back on defence.

Twenty five minutes shot by quickly as we chased the game. Conceding five tries against a Super Rugby outfit in that time would be expected, but we played to our best and came off the field tired but pumped from the experience.

While we work our 9 am to 5 pm jobs, these athletes eat, sleep and train rugby and it is obvious when they take the field. They are clinical in almost every aspect of the game.

My body may be aching, but my mind is excitedly contemplating the upcoming Super Rugby season. By my own account, the Sharks are in a good space and it was good to see the likes of Waylon Murray playing some excellent rugby, keeping me busy during the match.

It is also good to see club rugby mixing with professional setups and I think both gained much from the outing.

While Collegians and Rovers have just under a month before the Community Cup kicks off, the Sharks are about to hit their straps.

A good run around on Thursday night will have boosted confidence ­levels, while giving Gary Gold and his coaching team a better idea of what to expect in the next few weeks.

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