Sharks gear for Hurricane damage

2009-03-31 00:00

THE Hurricanes will provide the Sharks with their biggest home challenge of the Super 14 season when they meet at King’s Park on Saturday evening.

This is the view of the Sharks’ New Zealand backline coach Chris Boyd, who said yesterday that the 12 All Blacks in the Wellington side gave them quality throughout.

Boyd and Sharks head coach John Plumtree, who coached together in Wellington, have considerable knowledge of the Hurricanes squad.

“The Sharks face a huge challenge. The Hurricanes were tipped as the New Zealand side to watch this season, but they had a hiccup in the first round against the Waratahs in a match that could have gone either way.”

Boyd said that the fifith-placed Hurricanes tended to blow hot or cold.

“History will show they have not delivered as much as they have promised and they have come unstuck a number of times against Crusaders in the knockout stages after beating them in the pool games. They’ve been near the top consistently throughout the history of the tournament without getting over that final hurdle.”

Boyd said he thought the Hurricanes would have singled out the Sharks game for special attention on tour and they will be up for the challenge.

“This would have been earmarked as their Test match on tour.”

The New Zealander said that the Hurricanes play “a lot of rugby”, attacking and keeping the ball in hand.

“Sides who are doing that in the Super 14 are having mixed fortunes and this highlights the pluses and minuses to the ELVs.”

The visitors, he said, bring a high degree of physicality to their rugby.

“They also have quality in key positions, players like Rodney So’oialo, Piri Weepu, Alby Mathewson, Ma’a Nonu and Cory Jane.”

Boyd described All Black centre Ma’a Nonu as a world-class player.

“When he’s on top of his game, he’s as good as anyone in the world.”

The Sharks coach mounted a spirited defence of Sharks utility back Frans Steyn who has been criticised for his patchy form and petulant behaviour.

“I think he has played outstandingly for us. He has defended exceptionally well, his work-rate is high, his enthusiasm is good and he’s kicking well. You cannot ask for more.”

Boyd is convinced that Steyn is better suited to inside centre rather than flyhalf.

“For me, he’s a 12, but he’s doing a great job at 10 in the absence of Ruan Pienaar. He might be frustrating in two or three things he does, but I’m happy with 95% of his game.”

Boyd said that the coaching staff had been delighted with the form of the Sharks bench in spite of their inexperience but he is still hoping that JP Pietersen, who suffered a muscle strain in his lower leg, would be ready.

“I suspect he’s on the right side of 50% to play, but will make a decision as late as tomorrow or Friday. He’s optimistic as are the medical staff.”

Reflecting on the convincing 35-14 win over the Brumbies at the weekend, Boyd said that the leadership group in the Sharks felt it was the first time they had been able to control the momentum of the match.

“They are often very difficult to play because they control the flow of the game. It was a good effort and you take confidence from a win like that.”

But, he emphasised, the Hurricanes would provide a different challenge.

“They are a different beast. The Hurricanes will be more competitive at the breakdown and their game is based on fast ball and playing with width.

“They’re very good at that, so we will look to be more clinical.”

Boyd said the Sharks’ focus this week will be on “getting both halves right”.

“You don’t need to be an Einstein to work out that we haven’t always played a lot of rugby. But, again, you also don’t want to be over-critical of a team that is top of the log.”

Saturday’s clash between the Hurricanes and the Sharks kicks off at 5.05 pm.

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