Durban – The Sharks have not forgotten the physical hammering they got in last year’s Currie Cup final at Kings Park, and bruising flank Jean Deysel says that it is a case of “once bitten, twice shy” for his team after they unexpectedly lost that final.
The teams meet in Durban on Saturday in what is a final of sorts in that the winner of the match will have the luxury of a home final should they win their respective home semi-final next week. Both teams have already qualified for home semis.
“It is a big boost to our pack to have five Springboks back for a match that is going to be a massive physical contest,” said Deysel, who was named in a loose trio with Marcell Coetzee and Keegan Daniel when the Sharks’ team was confirmed on Wednesday.
Jannie and Bismarck du Plessis and Beast Mtawarira will be the front row, and Pieter-Steph du Toit returns to the second row to partner Peet Marais.
“It’s brilliant, the Boks bring a different dimension to the side. They add experience to the side, so it’s awesome having the boys back and they are hungry to make a difference,” Deysel said.
“They have slotted into training smoothly and they are going to play a huge part this weekend.”
Deysel said the Sharks were no under illusion as to what to expect from a Province pack that has paved the way for their team’s unbeaten record in the competition.
“It’s always a massive battle with them. They’ve got a big bunch of forwards and they relish the physical stuff. That’s where any rugby game starts, so we’re looking forward to the challenge. It’s going to be a tough one, and those are the games that you remember,” he said.
The battle of the breakdown is going to be pivotal to the outcome, and Deysel promises he will be in the forefront.
“We are all going to have to get stuck in. They’ve got some good quality loosies, and the breakdown is where both teams will be planning to get quick ball to launch momentum,” Deysel said.
“So it comes back to the forward clash and the physical battle. The breakdown will be colossal, but by the same token, so will the set pieces (the Sharks will remember the hiding they got in the line-outs in last year’s final).”
Deysel said that Province captain Deon Fourie had been inspirational for the Capetonians.
“Deon is having a brilliant season as captain. They’re unbeaten and he’s been a big part of that. And having a guy like Schalk, as well as Siya Kolisi and Duane Vermeulen, gives them plenty of experience – I mean you can pick a Springbok loose trio from that lot. But we have also got some good loosies and a quality pack. So at the end of the day it’s going to be who ends up on top in the physical battle.”
Discipline will play a key role and both teams will be pleased that the vastly experienced Jonathan Kaplan will be handling the match.
The Sharks were disappointed with their discipline against the Bulls last week, giving away 18 penalties when they usually average 10 per match.
Many of those penalties were at scrum time, so they will expect that to be sorted out by the return of the streetwise Bok front row.
“When you get to this stage of any competition, where there is so much riding on the outcome of each game, discipline plays a massive role,” Deysel said.
“You have to keep your discipline because any penalty can end up in three to seven points against you. Discipline is going to be a main focus for us this weekend.
“We’ve worked hard on it in the week, so hopefully we can keep the penalty count down.”
Deysel said the introduction this week of new coach Jake White (from 2014) was a thrilling development.
“It’s exciting times for the players and the union,” he said.
“There are some significant changes. We’ve got a new title sponsor in Cell C, and there are some management changes and coaching changes as well. We’re just happy to be a part of some fascinating developments at the union.
“Jake is a great coach. He’s a World Cup winner and he did a brilliant job with the Brumbies.
“I’m one of the guys that hasn’t played under Jake yet, but his reputation speaks for itself. All the guys are ready to welcome him with open arms, so we’re very excited about building a new dynasty at the Sharks.”