Sharks’ home fortress

2014-04-25 00:00

AT the beginning, the Sharks set out to win all of their home games, and as things stand ahead of tonight’s clash against the Highlanders at King’s Park Stadium, so far, so good.

Tonight’s encounter is the Sharks’ last home game for a month, and they will look to keep their impressive 100% record at the Shark Tank which has seen them climb all the way to the top of the overall Super Rugby table.

Jake White’s men have had just six days since their last game, but scrumhalf Charl McLeod told reporters they will be prepared to face the men from Dunedin who are placed eighth on the overall Super Rugby, and second from bottom in the New Zealand Conference.

“It’s our first Friday game. It is a shorter week, but we’ve got our plans for the week and we will be well prepared for tonight,” McLeod said.

The Highlanders have a lot of “X-factor players and game breakers” and are able to score tries out of nothing, according to McLoed who also rated his opposite number, All Blacks number nine Aaron Smith, highly.

“Smith is a good scrumhalf, and I look forward to the battle, but at the end of the day, it’s 15 against 15,” said McLeod.

Last year, after a good start to the competition where they won their first three games, the Sharks faded and failed to make the play-offs. McLeod said this time, they had to see the job through.

“A good start is always nice in the competition, but it’s no use starting well and ending badly. Every week we want to win, and every week we want to improve. So for us to make the play-offs, we still have to want to win every week and that’s what we set out to do,” said the scrumhalf.

The Sharks have won seven out of their eight games this season, and that was a record McLeod said they’d take any day.

The presence of Cobus Reinach in the squad meant McLeod started the season on the bench. But, after the former was injured in their only loss so far — to the Bulls at Loftus — the experienced McLeod has become the first choice scrumhalf in his last Super Rugby campaign for the men in black and white.

“Starting off the bench is much of the [same]. We both get used. But for me, my role now is to be the starting number nine and that’s what I’m focused on. When Cobus comes back and he starts and I play off the bench, I’ll just adjust my role again,” he said.

McLeod said they try to win the competition every year, but added it would be nice to win it in his final season with the franchise.

Tonight’s game will kick off at 7.10 pm and will be officiated by Jaco Peyper.

Sharks: 15. Lwazi Mvovo, 14. JP Pietersen, 13. Paul Jordaan, 12. Frans Steyn, 11. S’bura Sithole, 10. Tim Swiel, 9. Charl McLeod, 8. Keegan Daniel, 7. Jean Deysel, 6. Marcell Coetzee, 5. Stephan Lewies, 4. Willem Alberts, 3. Jannie du Plessis, 2. Bismarck du Plessis (captain), 1. Tendai Mtawarira Replacements: 16. Kyle Cooper, 17. Dale Chadwick, 18. Lourens Adriaanse, 19. Etienne Oosthuizen, 20. Ryan Kankowski, 21. Stefan Ungerer, 22. Heimar Williams, 23. SP Marais

Highlanders: 15. Ben Smith (co-captain), 14. Richard Buckman, 13. Malakai Fekitoa, 12. Shaun Treeby, 11. Patrick Osborne, 10. Lima Sopoaga, 9. Aaron Smith, 8. Nasi Manu (co-captain), 7. Shane Christie, 6. Elliot Dixon, 5. Joe Wheeler, 4. Jarrad Hoeata, 3. Chris King, 2. Liam Coltman, 1. Kane Hames Replacements: 16. Ged Robinson, 17. Craig Millar, 18. Ma’afu Fia, 19. Josh Bekhuis, 20. Gareth Evans, 21. Fumiaki Tanaka, 22. Trent Renata, 23. John Hardie.

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