No white flag from Sharks pack, says Ruben van Heerden
DURBAN - It’s not rocket science. Saturday’s Currie Cup semi-final at Newlands will mostly come down to whether the Sharks pack can at least gain parity against their world class Western Province counterparts.
The Sharks have been notoriously vulnerable in the set-pieces this year, and have lost heavily each time they have been given a smack up front, but when their forwards have managed to give them half-decent ball, their dangerous backs have won the game.
And it also offers this question: Are WP over-reliant on their set-piece domination or do they have more to offer in the event of the Sharks forwards playing beyond expectations?
Equally, if the predicted WP domination materialises up front, can the Sharks “make a plan” to be effective without front-foot ball?
Ruben van Heerden, the senior Shark in their engine room, shed some light on the matter.
“I wouldn’t say WP are one-trick ponies, I think they are a very good all-round team. They just have certain strengths that they obviously go to, and that they do really well,” the 23-year-old lock said.
“So, I wouldn’t say they are limited, but if we take their strengths away from them, will they bring something else? We will find that out on Saturday.”
And, of course, the Sharks forwards are hardly going to raise the white flag.
“Both scheduled games against the Stormers/WP in the regular season were cancelled because of Covid-19, so we haven’t played them yet since lockdown ended, but we are blessed with a brilliant coaching staff and also an astute back-room staff that does all the analysing,” the former Blue Bull said.
“We know what WP bring. And that is a very strong set-piece. Their line-out is excellent, their scrum is strong and they have a powerful mauling game. But we are very well prepared. We have been working extremely hard on getting ourselves to a place where we are confident of doing well against their pack.
“When you get to this level of rugby, everyone is strong. Everyone shows up on the day and wants to play. I think it will come (down) to the technical aspects we have been working on. We have worked really hard on nullifying what gives them ascendancy, and on strengthening ourselves in those areas. We know that is where it is going to come and we are really confident we can do the job.”
But if the Sharks find themselves on the back foot up front, they will have a Plan B in place, suggests Van Heerden.
“You can expect a mixed bag from us,” he said. “I wouldn’t say we will be giving them set-piece advantage because we also thrive on set-piece. Our line-outs have been a good avenue for attack from us this season and we have actually been good at stopping mauls too. What we will be going out to do is to try and nullify their processes and play our game and style.”