‘Experience to count’

2017-10-18 14:10
Veteran Sharks player Keegan Daniel says their mix of experience and youth must guide them through the Currie Cup knockout stage.

Veteran Sharks player Keegan Daniel says their mix of experience and youth must guide them through the Currie Cup knockout stage. (Gallo Images)

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Sharks loose forward Keegan Daniel has challenged the experienced campaigners in the team to provide proper guidance to the youngsters in their quest for Currie Cup glory.

The Sharks are one step away from the final of the domestic competition following a good run in the round-robin format, where they finished at the top of the log table.

The men from the coast host the rejuvenated Blue Bulls in the first semi-final at King’s Park in Durban on Saturday at 2.30 pm.

With the way the Sharks have played in the pool stage — winning 10 matches in a row — some fans might have forgotten how youthful their squad are or how inexperienced they are when it comes to winning competitions.

The Durbanites have not won a title since 2013, when they defeated Western Province in the domestic competition final.

Though the youngsters have done exceptionally well leading up to the semis, Daniel says they understand the knockout stage is a bit different from the round-robin phase and the experienced men must lead from the front.

“For the Sharks, only a handful of us have won trophies for the union, and a couple of guys have been with other unions that have won trophies. So, we will rely a little bit on their experience to help us go all the way,” said Daniel on Tuesday.

“I think for the younger guys, it will be their first final, should we get there, and it’s quite exciting for them.

“It’s all about doing the basics and I’m sure they are looking forward to coming and doing their best in front of a home crowd.”

In the round-robin stage, the Bulls went down twice to the Durbanites, but the men from Pretoria fought against all odds to get back into the race for the prestigious title in recent weeks.

Daniel said that was history now and his side would need to be on their best form if they were to beat the Gauteng outfit. “Finals rugby is a different kind of rugby and I think they have improved immensely. The work that their coach John Mitchell has done with them is amazing,” said Daniel.

“They are not playing that old traditional style of Bulls rugby. You can see in the way they play, their backs and forwards are playing a nice brand of rugby. They have a couple of dangerous guys who are finding their feet. The talk of the town is obviously Warrick Gelant because of the way he is playing; he is quite a danger man at 15.”

Gelant has overtaken Sharks’ S’bu Nkosi as the competition’s top try scorer and he stands at 10 heading into the semis.

The 32-year-old Daniel believes the Sharks have had a solid plan which worked well for them since the beginning of the season and they need to stick with it even if play gets really tough on Saturday.

“The margins are so small and the opportunities are very minimal, so it is about capitalising on those opportunities. I think the team that’s going to be more clinical in the execution will win; it’s not about the fancy plans but doing the basics really well,” he said.

Except for Jeremy Ward, who is out for the rest of the year with a collarbone injury, the Sharks have a clean bill of health so far.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  sharks

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