Durban - The Sunwolves won’t rank as the Sharks’ toughest opponents this winter but there is a good reason why Saturday’s Kings Park date with the Japanese visitors is of crucial importance.
The Sharks have played two, lost one and drawn one, and there is a critical need for them to pick up some much needed momentum ahead of a tough tour that starts with their departure the day after the game. The Sharks face the Brumbies in Canberra in their first tour match before heading to New Zealand, and after dropping points at home by drawing with the Waratahs, there is a need to make up for it by winning in Australia.
“We know we have a lot to work on after last week and this game against the Sunwolves is one that we need to really nail down so that we can gain some confidence before we go overseas,” said kicking coach Braam van Straaten.
“This is a crucial week for us in the build-up to the tour, where we play some tough games. We need confidence and we need to iron out the areas that let us down last weekend.”
The former Springbok flyhalf highlighted patience when on the attack as one of the biggest work-ons for the team ahead of the three match tour.
“We were really disappointed with the result against the Waratahs. We were very keen to win our first home game so that we could really get into the season, but mistakes cost us. That is why it is crucial for us to find some momentum this week,” he said.
“We are a work in progress and we know as a group that there are one or two areas where we need to be better,” added Van Straaten.
The Sharks effectively gave away their chance of winning against the Waratahs through poor kick chase organisation that led to the try that the visitors scored to draw the scores level.
“We learned from that that even if you get it wrong just twice that is too many. We have to be switched on for the whole period until the ball is dead.”
It was though the points they left on the table through poor finishing that really cost the Sharks, which is why there is so much talk about patience around the Sharks camp this week.
“Patience is the biggest problem,” agreed Van Straaten.
“We have to be patient and hold onto the ball for longer and we have to be more clinical in knowing how to close games out. We have a very eager and exuberant young group but we need to be clever. Everyone knows what the conditions are like in Durban at this time of the year. The humidity makes the ball very slippery.
“But we have to protect the ball better than we are doing. We have to be more clinical in the gold zone. If we make 10 visits into that area, we must convert at least four or five of them. We just have to be more clinical and compact as a team. This is an unforgiving competition and we mustn’t give opposition chances or you get burnt.”
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