- Sharks captain Lukhanyo Am has admitted the Covid-19-enforced breaks have been difficult to deal with.
- He understands though the players have a massive responsibility to keep safe and ensure the semi-final against Western Province at Newlands takes place.
- He’s also seen the Covid-19 break as a blessing in disguise as the Sharks needed to sharpen their blunt points.
Springbok centre and Sharks captain Lukhanyo Am has admitted that Covid-19 disruptions have been difficult, but also understands the massive responsibility on his side to ensure they stay safe ahead of Saturday’s semi-final against Western Province at Newlands.
Because of Covid-19 issues, the Sharks and Western Province/Stormers have yet to face each other, but with the Sharks bearing the brunt of Covid-19 enforced cancellations, adhering to Covid-19 regulations has been a high priority for them.
The semi-finals were initially scheduled for 16 January, but with the need to ensure the teams clear any Covid-19 obstacles, they were moved to this weekend. The final has been scheduled for 30 January.
Am says his team understand how important it has been for them to stay safe, especially with SA Rugby director of rugby Rassie Erasmus announcing a strict guideline of teams having to submit their match-day squads by 12pm on Thursday.
“We try as hard as we can to adhere to Covid-19 protocols. We have this massive responsibility as a group to stay away from people. We’ve tried to make our own bubble where we are at the stadium, then go straight home. We know how important it is and especially leading into this game, you don’t want to be chopping and changing at the last moment when you’ve prepared as a team for the past two weeks,” Am said.
“We’ve been preaching about staying safe through the competition, but with Covid-19, you can never know when it will hit you. As a group, we’re playing our part and we are still playing our part. Mentally, as much as it was a challenge on the field, we’re trying to stay safe off the field.
For Am, the Covid-19 issue has worked in two ways. It has had a disruptive element in that positive tests have forced cancellations and reshuffles.
It's also an ironic positive in that it has given the Sharks an opportunity to recharge and regather themselves after a bumpy last three Currie Cup league rounds.
They lost 27-12 to the Lions and 37-10 to the Cheetahs away respectively before winning what should have been their second last round-robin game against the Griquas at home 47-19.
Their scheduled 9 January game against Western Province was cancelled because of Covid-19 issues, meaning this will be the Sharks’ first game since 2 January.
“Covid-19 has been disruptive in some way with us not being able to continue what we were doing as a group while losing some guys and having to change teams at the last minute. That’s something that’s happened to everyone in the competition,” Am said.
“The Covid-19 break came as a blessing in disguise and it gave us a longer time to prepare for the semi-final. We’ve managed to sharpen up on the issues that we needed to improve on. The semi-final is like any play-off game where you need to score as many points as possible. It’s going to be tough facing Western Province at Newlands, but we know what to expect.”