DURBAN – Discipline in all facets of play will be key to the Sharks beating the Golden Lions in Saturday’s Currie Cup semi-final at Kings Park, reckons assistant coach Braam van Straaten.
These days, discipline stretches way beyond curbing the unruly behaviour of yesteryear and it applies to the players doing what they are supposed to do in the right areas of the field, and applying patience with ball in hand rather than forcing miracle passes.
“A semi-final is a different ball game and while you don’t necessarily want to be conservative, you do want to be accurate in everything you do,” the defence coach said. “That means not getting bored with the small things; it is not overplaying your hand in your own half; it means sticking with what is working which we often have not done... In short it is about keeping focus.”
Van Straaten said that the Sharks have been getting it right for periods of games, but not for long enough. Last week they were good in stages against Griquas, but probably the best they have played was in the first half of the home game against the Lions last month.
“For 60 minutes against Griquas we produced some really good stuff, we defended very well and (for once) we took our opportunities early on (in) the game but in the last 20 we lost our way,” the former Springbok flyhalf said.
“We are very much a work in progress, but the encouraging thing is that there is no problem with the understanding of what we want to do. There is clarity on how we want to play. But with a young bunch it takes time to get everything right.
“We saw against Western Province in Cape Town what can happen when we get loose and don’t look after the ball. And this is in the Currie Cup where you have more leeway than in Super Rugby, which is what we are building towards. That will be the next step and we need to kick on with what we are doing from the Currie Cup into Super Rugby.
“The margin for error in Super Rugby is very small and if you carelessly concede a turnover you can end up behind your posts.”
Van Straaten and the rest of the coaching staff will be thrilled if their players take a big step towards the finished product by winning through to the final, but he warns that the Lions will be “a completely different entity” to the one well beaten last month.
Given the way the Sharks ran at training yesterday, the starting XV on Saturday is likely to see Robert du Preez back at flyhalf, with Curwin Bosch returning to fullback.
Last week Bosch played his first game in a year in his preferred position and after some initial rustiness, he settled down to play well.
“Curwin made a few errors early on but to be fair he hadn’t started at flyhalf for a while,” Van Straaten said. “We all know how talented he is and going forward he might play there on occasions. He is a great kicker of the ball... he can control the game and territory with those long, low kicks of his.”
Bosch has had a tough time with critics over the last year or so because of his occasional frailty on defence. It is this area of his game that almost certainly cost him his place in the Springbok squad in June after he had initially been picked by coach Rassie Erasmus for the broader squad.
In this regard, Van Straaten has been working tirelessly with the 21-year-old, and his labours seem to be bearing fruit.
“Curwin’s defence was really good against Griquas,” Van Straaten said. “He defended his channel well, and there were some big boys coming his way.”
With Du Preez likely moving back to No 10 from centre, Marius Louw is set to return at 12.
* The appetising curtain-raiser at Kings Park on Saturday is the SA Rugby Under-19 Championship semi-final between the Sharks and Western Province. The Sharks U19s went unbeaten during the pool stages. The match kicks off at 12pm and the main game is at 2.30pm. In short, that is a doubleheader of semi-finals featuring the Sharks, and with the early kickoffs it adds up to a good reason to head down to Kings Park.
Tickets are currently on sale from R100 and can be purchased from the Sharks’ ticket office, online at www.sharksrugby.co.za or at any Ticketpro outlet.