The Sharks will have no problem understanding the psyche of the hungry Stormers ahead of Saturday’s Super Rugby showdown at Kings Park. The Durbanites were in the same position last year after losing in the first round and while the Sharks then also went down to the Stormers in the second round, the Capetonians have no wish to emulate that by going 0-2 in arrears so early in the competition.
“We had lost to the Bulls and Stormers this time last year, so we know how it feels and we certainly know what mindset the Stormers will be in this week,” said assistant coach Hugh Reece-Edwards yesterday. “Defeat in round one to the Bulls was obviously not in their plans, I’m sure, and they certainly wouldn’t want to lose two out of two. So they’ll come to Durban with one thing in mind and that’s to walk away with the spoils.”
But the former Springbok fullback was quick to point out that the Sharks will be mentally up for the challenge.
“We are just as single-minded when it comes to winning our home games and giving ourselves the best chance of winning the SA Conference,” he said. “Either way it’s going to be a massive clash on the field and attitude and physicality is going to be paramount.”
It is no secret that the Sharks went into their opening match last week against the Cheetahs a little rusty after soft friendlies against the Leopards and Pumas.
But Reece-Edwards said that the Sharks had to start somewhere and were relieved that they came back from Bloemfontein with the points.
“We just have to build on where we are and take another step up,” he said.
“There were opportunities in this last game that we didn’t take where we could possibly have worked a little bit harder. But the work has been done, we just need to be more accurate and have the right attitude this week – that’s going to be key. We must at least match the attitude the Stormers will undoubtedly have.”
Reece-Edwards pointed out that the Cheetahs beat the Stormers in a friendly in Bloemfontein, which puts the Sharks win and this week’s match in perspective.
“They’ve beaten the Stormers up there, there is no easy game in Bloemfontein, and because we anticipated how difficult it was going to be, our attitude was right,” he said.
“Altitude always plays its part and the guys certainly felt it. There was that period of about eight minutes when the Cheetahs ran at us and it was through our own mistakes that we let them back into the contest and put us under the cosh,” Reece-Edwards said.
“But to come away with four points, especially an away win and first game up, was really good.
“We question the two lighter warm-up games, plus playing them at night versus this game played in bright sunshine and heat. So we’re really happy with what we took out of this match.”
Reece-Edwards conceded that the Sharks management were concerned about the Cheetahs’ second-half fightback.
“We were certainly a bit worried at that stage when we let them in like that. We knew we were under pressure and it was a major concern, but at the same time, we knew we had to score next, take control and get our hands on the ball. Once we did that, we started to take a little bit of control again.”
Reece-Edwards pointed out that hard-working lock Franco van der Merwe, who is on loan from the Lions and is used to playing at altitude, said he struggled to breathe freely.
“Franco did all his pre-season training in Durban and said he felt the effects of going back to altitude to play. He has a new realisation of what it takes when coastal sides travel inland.” - The Star