The Sharks will still have to deal with the challenges from the Cheetahs, Lions and Bulls. Photo: Gerhard Duraan/BackpagePix

DURBAN – The Sharks’ defence of their Currie Cup title is creaking following their loss at the weekend to the Pumas, and they are going to have to pull serious finger against the Free State Cheetahs at Jonsson Kings Park on Saturday if they hope to secure a home semi-final.

The Sharks have lost two of their three games, to the two Rugby Challenge finalists in Griquas and the Pumas, and the mountain they must now climb is ever higher given that after the visit of the Cheetahs, the Sharks’ remaining fixtures are away to the Golden Lions and Blue Bulls.

Sharks assistant coach David Williams said yesterday that the silver lining to the cloud hovering over Jonsson Kings Park is the fact that the loss to the Pumas in Nelspruit was not down to a lack of effort.

The words “effort and growth” are the catchwords for the Sharks’ 2019 Currie Cup campaign.

“There was no problem with the effort against the Pumas,” Williams said.

“We got out of the blocks and got a decent lead at halftime, but credit to the Pumas for refusing to go away and squeezing us out in the end.

“For us, the lesson that must be learned is how to cope with pressure. There is a big responsibility when you put on the black and white jersey. There is expectation... the guys speak about it in the change-room before kickoff, but the bottom line is that you have to combine effort with accuracy, and we did not have that in the second half against the Pumas.”

Williams, the attack coach at the Southern Kings in their heyday season of 2017, also had a spell with the Cheetahs.

“Obviously I have a good idea about their mindset after my time with them,” Williams said after yesterday’s training session. “Of course they remain a side focused on attack, but the major growth I see from them since they joined the PRO14 is at their breakdown play.

They have become really good in this area and this is because of their exposure in the northern hemisphere where the breakdown is a massive focus.”



The Mercury

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