Sharks back in force

2015-03-31 00:00

AFTER an uninspiring 15-6 win over the Force last weekend, Sharks fans will be jumping for joy at the return of three key Springboks for their crunch clash against the travelling Crusaders this Saturday.

Bok halfbacks Cobus Reinach and Pat Lambie were back at training and running the show yesterday after a week’s rest as per Saru’s plan to rest key Boks during the Super Rugby season.

The Sharks seemed to lack direction against the Force, with scrumhalf Conrad Hoffmann and flyhalf Frans Steyn struggling to take the match by the scruff of the neck.

Compared to previous weeks, where Reinach and Lambie ruled with their boots, the Sharks were unable to get the territorial dominance that saw them edge out both the Chiefs and Cheetahs due to some basic errors and poor execution.

Sharks kicking and defence coach Michael Horak could not deny that his returning halfbacks were a big boost this week.

“Having them back is massive; they are two quality rugby players. But I must say Conrad and Frans had good games, it’s nothing to do with their performances. But it is nice to have Pat and Cobus back, they bring a level-headedness to the game and a calming influence to the whole team,” Horak said after yesterday’s session.

While the returning halfbacks will steady the ship, director of rugby Gary Gold and his coaching staff have a slight selection poser up front. The third rested Bok, flank Marcell Coetzee, was also back on the pitch yesterday and was raring to go as always.

One of the few positives from Saturday’s game was the performance of flanks Jean Deysel and Renaldo Bothma. Both were tireless especially on defence, while their impact on attack was massive, but stymied by limited chances. With Coetzee back in the mix, one of them will have to sit out and it’s likely to be Bothma.

Deysel had a stormer even considering it was his first game coming back from injury. He carried the extra weight of captaincy superbly and he might play a huge role against Richie McCaw’s All Black-laden Crusaders.

And that is where the attention has clearly shifted. There is no doubt that the Sharks produced a poor, error-strewn performance and they cannot afford to do the same this weekend.

Horak agreed, while gleaning a few positives out of their third consecutive win, which arguably came down to some massive improvements in the Sharks’ defensive systems.

“We have made a few adjustments and improvements and the boys have taken well to the ideas we put across. We scrambled defensively really well this weekend, but I thought we could have been slightly better in one or two set phase defensive situations,” Horak said.

While their defence was a positive, Horak conceded that the Sharks weren’t up to scratch on attack. However, he chose to look on the bright side, while tipping his hat to a dogged performance by the Force. “We always try to be cognisant and take it objectively. You have to give credit to the Force, they managed to spoil a lot of our play and the weather conditions weren’t conducive to playing multi-phase rugby so we found it difficult and we made a lot of errors, it’s got to be said. We made quite a few errors and turnovers and that was due to the pressure.”

There’ll likely be more of the same this Saturday. The Crusaders lost to the Bulls in a cracking game of rugby at Loftus and will be looking to get a travelling win.

“They are packed with All Blacks and there is a lot of pride in their team. I think they’ll come here and want to do themselves justice to get a result on the road; they don’t want to lose two on the bounce. We’re expecting a really tough, physical clash. They give you nothing so we have to handle the pressure situations well, our discipline has to be impeccable and when we have opportunities we have to turn them into points.”

But with the return of familiar faces, and a massive improvement in their set-piece, the Sharks have the fire power to produce the goods, according to Horak.

“I think the set-piece is vital, ours has come on a lot and we’ve been putting teams under pressure there. I see the Crusaders in the same light in the last few rounds, they’ve also used their set- piece to good effect. I know there will be a good mentality and mindset taken into the game and I’m looking forward to the boys producing the goods,” Horak said.

Meanwhile Steyn will hear his fate today in his rescheduled Sanzar hearing for his red-card tackle on Chiefs flyhalf Aaron Cruden two weeks ago.

The Sharks host the Crusaders this Saturday in Durban. Kickoff is at 3 pm.

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