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Sharks aim to restore intimidating ’90s era atmosphere

Super Rugby
DURBAN – To put it starkly, victory for the Sharks against the Jaguares on Saturday is non-negotiable.

It has to happen for the home side if they are to stay in touch with the leaders of Africa Group 2, the Lions, who squeaked home against the Durban team last week.

Equally, the Sharks will be desperate to avoiding falling into third position behind the Argentinians.

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Curwin Bosch has the ability to bang over goal-kicks from all corners of the field. Photo: Muzi Ntombela, BackpagePix

The loss to the Lions hurt the Sharks, particularly because on balance of play they probably deserved to win but they did not have the rub of the green, the bounce of the ball, and certainly not a hint of benevolence from TMO Johan Greeff when it came to some crucial but marginal decisions.

The Sharks are level on 18 points with the Jaguares, but the Buenos Aires side have a game in hand on the Sharks. They have won four out of five games, while the Sharks are four from six.

The Durbanites are on holiday next week, while the South Americans have a difficult game against the hurting Bulls at Loftus next week and then finish their SA tour with a toughie at Ellis Park against the Lions.

The Sharks want to nail second spot by winning today and with so much rugby still to be played in the competition, they will fancy their chances of hauling in the Lions (currently on 23 points), especially with the Joburg team having to come to Durban on July 15 for the final match before the playoffs.

Who knows what could be at stake in that match.

But in the here and now it is the Jaguares that have the full attention of the Sharks.

They have to win because it is a home match, because the team they are playing are their rivals for second spot and because it is vital for morale that they enter the bye week with a win rather than two consecutive losses.

In pre-season meetings with the players, coach Robert du Preez and chief executive Gary Teichmann hammered home their vision of the Sharks returning to the values that made Natal the team of the ’90s in South Africa.

They were big on the team being the property of the people of KZN and not a band of mercenaries. They were insistent that Kings Park become the fortress it once was.

So far so good on that count. The Sharks have won their last six Super Rugby matches at Kings Park (obviously dating back to last season and then the 2017 wins over the Waratahs and the Kings).

“The plan is to play winning, entertaining rugby that will put increasing numbers of bums on seats and restore the intimidating atmosphere of the ’90s era.

“Obviously the log points are crucial, but it is also hugely important that the fans that come to the ground see their team play with passion and commitment,” coach Du Preez said.

“We are trying to build something here at the Sharks and we cannot be disappointing our fans at our home games.”

The Sharks will be expecting no shortage of “Argie bargy” from a ferocious Jaguares team that contain the backbone of the Pumas squad that famously beat the Springboks at the same venue in 2015 and contested the semi-final of the World Cup that year.

Last year, the Jaguares were their own worst enemies in terms of discipline and spent many a game a man down, and there was a match against the Cheetahs when they had two players in the bin.

They have calmed down a little since their debut season, but still are the competition’s most penalised team, averaging 12 penalties per game.

If they keep that up, it will suit the Sharks just fine. Curwin Bosch can bang them over from anywhere if necessary or punt to the corners with his hefty boot.

We have been seeing that all season, and in five games he has already amassed 73 points (including a try).

No doubt the Jaguares have taken note of Bosch’s lethal boot, and surely they will have discussed bringing down their penalty count.

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