DURBAN - It has been a challenging fortnight for the Sharks in their Currie Cup away games against the Pumas and Griquas but now they are back at home, the Durbanites expect even tougher games.
This week they host the fast-improving Blue Bulls, who under new coach John Mitchell will be eager to test their progress as a rebuilding team against the runaway log leaders.
The Bulls had a lamentable start to the campaign and in Mitchell’s first game in charge took a hiding, but they are getting better and were unlucky to lose narrowly to the Golden Lions last week in a belter of a game.
The cautious Mitchell will be reminding his charges that Rome was not built in a day but will at the same time expect improvement.
“It is true we targeted that tough fortnight of away games in Nelspruit and Kimberly,” Sharks hooker Franco Marais said. “And we are pleased that we won both, and in the Griquas game showed that we are getting closer to the way we want to play.
"It was a good performance, even if we were sucking the thin air and are now very happy to have some oxygen back in Durban!”
The Sharks lost their first game, away to a full-strength Free State Cheetahs team, but have now won eight in a row.
“It is not difficult to keep focused just because we are now at home for the rest of the competition,” Marais said of the upcoming games against the Bulls, Lions and Western Province.
He said the competition was tougher this year with fewer teams and less “weaker” teams.
“We are in a good place but have to keep our concentration,” he said. “Our brand of rugby is coming together with the interplay between the forwards and backs.
“We said from the start that we wanted to play with Super Rugby intensity. We had no excuse because we have not lost too many guys to the Springboks.”
As for the Bulls, Marais said the Mitchell influence was starting to come through.
“They are playing more expansively, they run from kicks-offs, from everywhere. It is going to be a fun challenge for our backs, but they also still like their forward play. It is still going to be physical for our forwards but our backs are going to have to be wide awake.”
The Sharks-Bulls match kicks off at 3pm to accommodate the screening of the Kings-Zebre PRO14 match.