DURBAN - The Sharks have tripped up more times than they would care to remember against Griquas in Currie Cup games in recent reasons, particularly at Kings Park, and captain Ruan Botha says his side is preparing to fight fire with fire in Durban on Friday night in an important Currie Cup encounter.
It is the first of three games the Sharks play in a week - they play the Bulls next Wednesday and then the Lions on the Saturday - and a home win is vital as they head into these uncharted waters of three games in a week.
Botha, the new captain, is under no illusions as to what to expect from a Kimberley pack that has paved the way for their backs to score more than 40 points against the Bulls and the Lions (even though they narrowly lost both games).
“From a forward's perspective, this is probably the best pack we will face, with no disrespect to the other teams,” the lock said.
“They like to prove themselves against teams like the Sharks and they like to bring a ‘bully’ mentality to the game, so we will have to front up as a pack and meet that challenge head on.”
Coach Robert du Preez has made two changes to the side that beat the Pumas 29-0 last week, one of them injury enforced - former Kings flank/lock Tyler Paul coming in for Hyron Andrews - and on the flank Jean-Luc du Preez is rested and rugged SA Under 20 flank Jacques Vermeulen gets a crack.
Coach du Preez said that in any case Jean-Luc was likely to be at the Bok camp next week and, having played probably more rugby than any other Shark this season, needed a break.
Botha said Paul would bring mobility to the pack.
“He has a loose forward mentality and I have been watching him in Super Rugby as a potential adversary, and he is one of those guys who just gets on with the game and has a very good work ethic.
“I am pleased to have him next to me in the second row. Tyler is typical of the young talent coming through at the Sharks,” Botha said.
“There are a lot of talented youngsters bubbling under who are fighting for a chance, and the Currie Cup is the perfect stage for new talent to come through and prove themselves before Super Rugby the next year.”
In front of Botha is 34-year-old Ross Geldenhuys, who made his debut for the Sharks last week, and coach Du Preez said the hugely experienced prop was going to be vital over the season.
“Ross is an old campaigner and has massive experience. He is a great team man and has added a new dimension to our leadership, and we are going to need the old heads to steady the ship over what is going to be a tough Currie Cup, given that players could be coming and going,” the coach said.
With three games coming up in a week, Du Preez said that while the squad system would have to play a role, the only thing the coaching staff could control was to see who came through (fit) each game and mould the team accordingly, attempting to keep consistency when possible, but also trusting the youth.