DURBAN - Robert du Preez said it himself in the starkest of terms when he looked forward from the Sharks’ defeat to the Kings last week to Saturday’s match against the Sunwolves in Singapore.
“No more excuses,” the taciturn coach growled.
The Sharks are playing a team that has just won once this season, the only other team as bad as them are the Rebels who, dare we mention, drew with the Sharks in Durban. So, actually that draw means the Rebels are better than the Sunwolves because it adds to their solitary win.
But let’s not split hairs ... Surely a Sharks team severely chastised by their coaching staff for allowing themselves to be bullied in Port Elizabeth last week, are going to “get up” for this one.
The reality for the Sharks is that if they lose to the Sunwolves, their position of second place on the Africa 2 Conference suddenly becomes perilous because the Jagaures have not given up hope of finishing runners-up to the Lions, and after the Sharks’ match against the Sunwolves on Saturday, the Sharks finish with three home derbies against the Stormers, Bulls and Lions.
Those games are at Kings Park, but no South African rugby fan needs reminding that anything can happen in a local derby.
In short, the Sharks have to win on Saturday to solidify their hopes of finishing second in their conference and earning an away quarter-final spot.
Playing away in a play-off to a New Zealand team, and probably losing (at the risk of sounding pessimistic), is better than finishing among the also-rans.
The Sharks have got themselves into this position because of some unforgivable performances, some of which are too painful to mention.
But let’s not go down the road of the Sharks’ inconsistent performances and focus on the starting line-up that they have picked (under duress as far the backline is concerned) for Saturday’s match.
Coach Du Preez has opted for Lwazi Mvovo at fullback, a position the Springbok wing will learn on the hoof given the need to keep Garth April at flyhalf because of the non-availability of Curwin Bosch and Patrick Lambie.
Du Preez has given a debut to centre Johan Deysel and recalled from the wilderness wing S'bura Sithole.
In another backline calamity, veteran Michael Claassens is out of the match because of a late hamstring injury.
SHARKS STARTING XV: Lwazi Mvovo, Kobus van Wyk, Lukhanyo Am, Johan Deysel, S’busiso Nkosi, Garth April, Cobus Reinach, Daniel du Preez, Jean-Luc du Preez, Philip van der Walt (capt), Stephan Lewies, Ruan Botha, Lourens Adriaanse, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Thomas du Toit; REPLACEMENTS: Franco Marais, Beast Mtawarira, John-Hubert Meyer, Etienne Oosthuizen, Tera Mtembu, Rowan Gouws, Benhard Janse van Rensburg, S’bura Sithole