DURBAN - If the Sharks are to beat Western Province at Newlands on Saturday and regain top spot in the Currie Cup, it will be team character that will do the business, said former captain Tera Mtembu.
The No 8 is back in business after almost two years out due to crippling knee injuries.
“Much has been said about the three games in eight days that we have just been through and we said before that run started, that it would make or break us, and we won all three games. So, I guess you can say that we are in a good place right now, but by no means over confident,” Mtembu said.
The former Dale College pupil said that the players had been battered and bruised after recording wins against physical opponents in Griquas, the Bulls and Lions.
“The main thing is that in that flurry of games, character was forged. We had spoken about it before we started against Griquas at home, knowing what was coming so soon after. Coach Robert du Preez said that this was going to be when we had to show whether or not we had the character to go onto greater things, or slip back into the pack," Mtembu.
“We were physically finished after that last game against the Lions. A guy like (flank) Jacques Vermeulen could hardly walk, he was so sore. So, the bye (last week) came at the right time and we had a week off recharging the batteries and just getting our heads right for what is going to be a heck of a match in Cape Town. We feel now that we are ready to renew battle.”
At halftime during the Lions game, it was not looking too rosy for the Sharks, but they fought back with courage.
“The whole of the week the theme had been about character, and when we were so far behind against the Lions, we spoke again about what it meant to play for the Sharks, about how it was about showing personal belief that rubbed off on your teammate, and that if we just stuck to our systems and showed confidence in each other, we could pull it off,” Mtembu said.
Mtembu said that the squad treated the three-match sequence as a tour, during which players could bond.
“A number of players have left since Super Rugby and even now we have only been together for six weeks as a new team, and we have made significant advances in winning these last three games, not just on the field but in getting to know each other in coffee shops. In a sense, just gelling as a unit," he said.