Sean Everitt comes across as a fairly timid person on most days, but the Sharks coach produced a huge vocal bat this week to smash any doubts about his team’s ability to subdue the Bulls in their powerful encounter in the Pro14 Rainbow Cup SA in Pretoria on Saturday.
Even with his usual tendency to stay calm, he made it abundantly clear that nobody should write off his men’s chances against their mighty opponents in the country’s capital this evening, as they have a lot going for them.
There has been improvement at set-pieces, sharper thinking at breakdowns, and the presence in his team of men who are not only determined to win for their franchise but also plan to “raise their hands” for possible selection to the Springbok squad, according to the coach.
But one of the biggest positives, in his opinion, is that his outfit showed no ill-effect of playing at altitude, alongside strong character, when they went all the way to extra time in the Currie Cup final in January before being edged by Jake White’s Bulls.
He would also like fans to know that his team are well prepared to handle a likely kicking game of enormous strength by the home side tonight.
Everitt said he was fully aware of disciplinary shortcomings and an unsatisfactory number of penalties conceded by his team in recent games, but felt the Bulls were no better in this department.
All that remains now is for his men to get the business done at 6.30 pm at Loftus Stadium on Saturday.
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But something will have to give as the Bulls and Sharks will be looking to maintain their 100% start to the campaign.
The Duane Vermeulen-led Bulls, with two Boks in their matchday squad, have a formidable record at Loftus, having won 12 in a row there since going down to the Jaguares in Super Rugby in February 2020. They are also on somewhat of a winning streak, with their last defeat in eight matches coming at the hands of the Sharks, albeit in Durban, in March.
“We’re looking forward to the match,” said Sharks flyhalf Curwin Bosch, who is also the top points’ scorer in the competition with 22 points [two penalty goals and eight conversions].
“I think it will be a good one between two unbeaten sides in the competition and the guys are excited for the challenge. I’m sure the Bulls players are too.”
Bulls coach White said: “We’ve had a few epic battles thus far and the Sharks will be keen to get one over us at Loftus as it is something they’ve yet to do.
“The forward tussle is going to set the tone, while both backlines are brimming with relentless talent so it should make for an exciting but hard encounter.”
Meanwhile, the Lions and Stormers will both be looking for progress when they clash at 1.30 pmon Saturday in Johannesburg. The Lions, with a new captain in Burger Odendaal this week, will be very keen to turn their fortunes around after losing their last three matches. Their last victory was over the Sharks in their 2021 Kick-Off Pools clash in Johannesburg in March, but they endured a 44-12 defeat a week later in Cape Town.
Ivan van Rooyen’s team will be buoyed by their recent record at home, though, having won four in a row in all tournaments since losing to the Bulls in Super Rugby Unlocked in November.
The Stormers have won 14 of their 21 meetings with the Lions, but have prevailed on only two of their previous six visits to Johannesburg.
Meanwhile, the Rainbow Cup is set to culminate in an historic “North v South” final on June 19 so that the dual tournaments operating in Europe and South Africa will tie together to produce one winner. Planning is now at an advanced stage and all written approvals are expected imminently for the game to take place at a European venue.