‘Sharks won’t have it easy’

2013-03-08 00:00

THE Sharks will face the most hostile of crowds when they play the Southern Kings at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth tomorrow night with even two of their former mates desperate to ruin their evening.

The Kings are keen to show that their 22-10 win over the Force in their Super Rugby opener was no flash in the pan and that they belong in this elite competition.

The debutants have signed a number of Super Rugby veterans, among them a pair of long-serving former Sharks, Andries Strauss and Steven Sykes.

Centre Strauss, who arrives via the Cheetahs, spent five years in Durban, never commanding a regular place until 2010 when he played a major role in the Sharks winning the Currie Cup title. He then returned to his home in the Free State before being signed by Kings CEO Alan Solomons.

Sykes, a no-nonsense lock, was even more involved with the Sharks and for years was an automatic selection, playing Super Rugby from 2007 to 2012. He has now returned to the family farm near Cradock and is a key member of a workmanlike Kings pack.

The two, both 29, were loyal members of the Sharks squad but they are now singing loudly from the Kings’ hymn sheet.

Strauss, who is the team’s vice-captain, says the Kings will have to lift their intensity levels to contain the Sharks.

“We have set ourselves goals, and winning one game [against the Force] doesn’t mean we’ve really achieved anything yet. There is a big onus on us to improve on that if we want to win more games.

“There is no better way than to take on a side with 15 Springboks and showing the world once again that we can play this game,” he said.

Sykes said he cannot wait to tangle with his old Sharks team-mates.

“I think the people will now treat us with a bit more respect than what they had before the season,” he told reporters.

“We did very well in the first game that we played and we showed that we are here to stay. I don’t think people will send their second string sides down to us, so it’s a nice challenge for us as well.”

The Kings played their first game in front of 32 000 spectators and Sykes said he was looking forward to playing to a full house tomorrow night.

“The atmosphere at the game against the Force was amazing, probably the best I’ve experienced, and I am hoping that everyone will come out and support us again as we take on the Sharks,” he said.

Sharks assistant coach Grant Bashford said the emphasis was on preparing properly rather than worrying about the opposition.

“It’s not all about the Kings this weekend, but rather about getting ourselves organised, making sure we prepare well for the game because we know that we’re a side that can beat anyone in this competition if we play well. There are a few areas we’d like to tidy up,” he said.

But Bashford said they would also study the Kings’ strengths and weaknesses.

“Their first game [against the Force] was always going to be a huge one for them, regardless of who they played against. Getting a result in their first outing, at home, has obviously created a huge amount of hype around them — and that’s great for them.

“They did very well and outplayed the Force, but our focus is making sure we’re ready and then we’ll back ourselves.”

This weekend’s fixtures (home team first, SA times):

Today

Hurricanes v Crusaders 8.35 am

Rebels v Reds 10.40 am

Tomorrow

Highlanders v Cheetahs 8.35 am

Brumbies v Waratahs 10.40 am.

Stormers v Chiefs 5.05 pm

Kings v Sharks 7.10 pm.

Sunday

Blues v Bulls 5.05 am.

Bye: Force

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