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Sharks forwards pushing each other to perform

Super Rugby
DURBAN - Over the last fortnight, the Sharks forwards have been outstanding in upping their game against the Jaguares and the Force, and now the Durban pack have tasked themselves with going one better in Saturday’s away match to the Kings in Port Elizabeth.

This resurgence, of course, goes back to the non-delivery against the Rebels in that forgettable 9-9 draw at Kings Park.

Stephan Lewies, a one-time Springbok lock under former Bok coach Heyneke Meyer, says the Sharks forwards have taken it upon themselves to pull themselves together and give the backline decent possession to allow better decisions to be made.

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Stephan Lewies takes a line-out against the Cheetahs. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/Backpagepix

“We had harsh words among ourselves after that game,” Lewies said.

“We agreed that we were unhappy with our standards and that after the non-performance against the Rebels we had to pull ourselves together and do some hard yards.”

Lewies said that on reflection after the Rebels game, the players had realised that they had not known how to deal with the situation of having a key player in playmaking, centre André Esterhuizen red carded early in the game (for a tip tackle).

“We fell apart, we went into our shell and did not know how to handle the situation,” Lewies said.

“That will not happen again. We know we must back each other and continue to stick to our structures.”

For Lewies and his fellow locks, it is easy.

All season it has just been the three of them. Lewies, Ruan Botha and Etienne Ooshuizen. They are all excellent locks. Botha was Man of the Match against the Force, and Oosthuizen and Lewies have each had that accolade this season as well.

“There are three of us and we know that each week coach Robert is watching us closely, and one match you are in and the next you are on the bench, depending on how you perform,” Lewies said.

Pull Finger

“So when you start you have to pull finger because you know that one of the three wants your spot.

“Maybe that is why the Sharks forwards are playing so well. It is the same at hooker where Franco Marais was first choice and now Chiliboy Ralepelle is preferred,” Oosthuizen said.

The 24-year-old from Klerksdorp said the Sharks pack had agreed that they were not going to let the Kings provide quality ball for their exciting backs.

“After the Rebels game we spoke about improving every game, and we did that against the Jaguares and Force, and on Saturday we will seek to dominate once more, especially improving at the breakdowns where we know they have players that are excelling at winning ball on the ground.”

Oosthuizen is talking about Chris Cloete, an incarnation of Heinrich Brussow, the openside flanker that turned the tide for the Boks in the series against the British Lions in 2009.

“We know Chris well, we know he is good at turnovers. He gets in low at the ball. He is definitely a threat and we want to take him out of the game,” We have a plan for him.”

The Mercury

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