Sharks primed for battle of collisions

2008-05-23 00:00

Sydney — For more than a century those involved have racked their brains about how to approach a semi-final clash.

While the prize for which you’ve sweated it out is now almost tangible, one slip-up could cost you everything. Like standard nine (or whatever it’s called now) or an engagement. You’re on the threshold, but …

The same question will have been gnawing away at the Waratahs and Sharks rugby teams in the run-up to today’s Super 14 semi-final clash at the Aussie stadium, and someone who has been trying to unravel this psychological conundrum is Sharks prop Jannie du Plessis.

“For me, the approach to a semi-final is tougher than to a final. You still want to play your natural game, but there’s a bit more pressure. The senior players have to come to the fore in a semi-final … an AJ Venter, a Johann Muller. I think the first five minutes will determine which side will play with the greatest self-confidence,” said Du Plessis.

If it is assumed that the physical capabilities of teams that have qualified for the semi-finals are beyond reproach, then the chaff, psychologically speaking, has to be separated from the wheat.

“It’s all about having the self-confidence to play your game and not to retreat into your shell,” says Waratahs captain Phil Waugh.

A team’s ability to stay calm under intense pressure will then be the deciding factor.

“Penalties and dropkicks play a part,” said Waugh, with Sharks sharpshooter Francois Steyn in the back of his mind.

“Our discipline will be a big factor. Discipline has definitely been one of their strong points this year.”

It’s one thing not to concede penalties, but to maintain your line of defence is another factor. Both the Sharks and the Waratahs take the field today in the knowledge that their opponents see their defence in the midfield as vulnerable.

“It’s always difficult to protect the number 10 channel. Every team’s defence is exposed there from time to time,” said Waratahs flank Rocky Elsom.

The Waratahs’ midfield today consists of flyhalf Kurtley Beale and the relatively untried centre pairing of Tom Carter and Rob Horne. If the visitors want to penetrate the defence today, that is surely where they will have to try and wriggle their way through.

But the Waratahs know that the Sharks midfield trio attack with the ball under the arm and will be looking forward to the challenge. Ruan Pienaar’s self-confidence has returned, Adrian Jacobs’s game has the coach believing in him again, while Steyn can only hope that his sore ribs were not also mentioned in the Waratahs’ team talks.

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.