When they take on the Lions at Ellis Park this weekend, the Sharks won’t be swayed in going off-task to try and match the Joburg team’s expansive and free flowing style.
The Lions caught the attention last year when they started out-‘Kiwiing’ the Kiwis.
A South African team full of skill and power, looking to run into space and keep the ball alive was an unusual sight, but one that drew much praise. It seemed to set the new blueprint for what the South African public wanted from its teams, especially when it turned out to be winning rugby in the Lions’ case.
Other South African teams have tried, and failed, to emulate the Lions’ antipodean style.
The Bulls, with a host of stars and skilful backs, have looked lost in a non-traditional game plan for the Pretoria side. The Kings, always bound to be overawed in their execution, have thrown the ball around far too much, and even the traditionally flair-filled Cheetahs have shown massive chinks in their attacking game.
The Sharks under coach Du Preez have been one of the only sides promising a more attack-based, ball in hand game, but seeing where they have come from since last year, it is not hard to improve from a pure defence pattern.
Last year was the year of the stonewall for the Sharks, whereas this year they have balanced out somewhat, building more towards a tight and professional outfit.
Sharks veteran wing, now with over 100 caps to his name, Lwazi Mvovo is adamant that there are no distractions in Durban and each week is about honing their own game.
“We have made a few mistakes along the way, but we have gotten away with them for the most part. But we are close to getting the game plan we want to play and enjoy,” the wing explained.
Asked about the Lions and what they will bring to the table, there was only respect from Mvovo, but not any sense of longing or jealous admiration.
“The Lions are playing well,” Mvovo stated plainly.
“They were in the final last year for a reason, so obviously they're a good side. We cannot underestimate them. But it is up to us, we are looking at our own game plan and focusing on ourselves. Winning is tough in Joburg, but we are going there to get a win.”
It is all about inward focus for the Sharks as they line up for what would arguably be their biggest test to date. A meeting with the Lions in Joburg is a daunting task, but it is one they are approaching with typical professionalism, and an aim to improve each week.
“We take it a week at a time and try and concentrate on our game,” Mvovo said.
“We look back on our mistakes, try and rectify them and improve, but you can’t go forward without looking back.
“We have had a bad record up there (in Joburg) but it is a new ball game, new coaches, youngsters that have come into the system that are not scared to play. We are going up there to play our game and focus on our own issues.”