Super Rugby

'Momentum' key for up and down Sharks

Jeremy Ward (Gallo)
Jeremy Ward (Gallo)

Cape Town - The Sharks have looked both awesome and woeful at different stages of Super Rugby 2017 so far. 

That was highlighted by their commanding 33-25 win over the Jaguares in Buenos Aires on Saturday - a result that came just one week after what was a contender for the worst Super Rugby match of all time when the Durbanites drew 9-9 with the Rebels in a tryless Kings Park snore fest. 

As a result, 'momentum' has become the key word for coach Robert du Preez's men as they prepare for this Saturday's clash against the Force in Durban. 

The race for play-off places is still on, and the players feel like they owe their home crowd a performance after the garbage they dished up against the Rebels. 

Du Preez was heavily critical of his players after that match, going on record as suggesting that they should be responsible for reimbursing the paying spectators. 

The reaction against the Jaguares was exactly what the coach would have hoped for, but now they need to follow that up with another dominant display. 

"Momentum is everything. We had a quote this week: 'Good teams create momentum but great teams increase momentum.' That's what we're looking to do this week," Sharks centre Jeremy Ward said.

"We want to carry on pushing forward and play some better rugby, especially at home. We're looking to give the fans a better performance this weekend."

Ward is currently enjoying a breakthrough spell in Durban after joining the Sharks at the start of the season, even if his chance did come as a result of regular No 12 Andre Esterhuizen currently serving a suspension. 

The 21-year-old started against the Rebels and against the Jaguares, and he says the backlash from that disappointing draw was more of a mental challenge than anything.

"We let ourselves down and we let a lot of people that support us down, so we knew that we would have to shift mentally," he said.

"It certainly wasn't going to be easy and we knew that we would have to buy into what we want to achieve ... not just over the weekend but over the course of the season. It took a mental shift from everyone to be fully committed to the cause and trust our systems and gameplans.

"It was nice to almost get away a little bit and just focus on the team and become closer as a group. That's what we needed after that result."

A flexible player, Ward can shift between inside and outside centre. 

But, with Esterhuizen out for another month or so, Ward looks set to occupy the No 12 jersey while his Kings team-mate from 2016, Lukhanyo Am, is settled in the No 13 jersey. 

"Andre is a big loss. He'd be a loss to any Super Rugby team the way he was playing and the form he was in,": Ward said.

"But being a Super Rugby player and being in the squad, you have to step up whenever you're given the chance and that's what I'm looking to do.

"Luke (Am) and I are the best of friends and that's what can make us work so well together. We push each other and it's a healthy competition. We get on well on and off the field."

Sharks fans will want to see two things this weekend: a win and tries. 

They had neither against the Rebels, and while it is hard to see this weekend's clash being anything like that non-event, Ward sees similarities between the Rebels and the Force. 

"I think all Australian teams are trying to play the same style and in the way they set up," he said.

"So we are expecting a tough encounter, especially with them (Force) looking to feed off our errors.

"That's the type of team that they are and they do have some very dangerous players. It's about us pitching up on the day and meeting our standards and not lowering them."

If the Sharks win, they will move at least 12 points ahead of the Jaguares, who are in action against the Sunwolves later on Saturday. 

Kick-off in Durban is at 15:05.

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