Sharks captain Lukhanyo Am predicts another epic encounter with the Lions
DURBAN - Slowly, almost imperceptibly, the Sharks have put together an unbeaten run that is nudging them closer to the captivating form of Super Rugby earlier this year.
Since losing 41-14 to the Bulls back in October in a Super Rugby Unlocked match, the Sharks have not lost a game but their five-match winning streak has largely gone unnoticed because it has been punctuated by byes and called-off games.
The stop-start nature of their season has also hindered them from rediscovering that fine form of February and March, and captain Lukhanyo Am says his team have had no choice but to narrow their focus to what is in front of them each week.
“We are slowly getting there,” said Am ahead of his team’s visit to the Lions this weekend. “We have tries to build momentum by adopting a typical week-by-week attitude. We’re gradually getting to where we want to be.
“We are starting to do the small things right,” Am added, referring to his team’s epic 32-29 win over the Bulls last week. “We did a lot of homework before that match and it was definitely an important result for us, especially coming off a bye.
“The boys were nice and refreshed. I was happy with how we managed to hang in and pull of that win. What was really good was the impact of the bench in coming on and finishing off the game for us. That is what happens when you have had a squad together for a while.”
A major focus for the Sharks before playing the Bulls was addressing the team’s inconsistency in intensity over the course of the match. Am said that although his team finished strongly, they didn’t quite get that right.
“It is still a work-on for us to deliver a complete 80-minute performance — against the Bulls we had a bad dip at the start of the second half before rallying to pull it off,” the captain said.
On Saturday it won’t be any easier for the Sharks against a Lions team on a strong upward trajectory following wins over Western Province and the Cheetahs.
Am said he has never experienced anything but hard-fought battles at Ellis Park.
“The Sharks and the Lions at Ellis Park always produces incredibly tough encounters,” Am said. “I have never had it easy there and this will be another exciting game. They are a good side that likes to keep possession and move the ball.
“They are a team on the rise after some early disappointments. They will be a tough nut to crack.”
The Sharks have suffered a serious setback with the news that tighthead prop Thomas du Toit will not only miss this match but most of the Currie Cup because of a fractured rib. The Springbok came off early in the second half against the Bulls. He is likely to be replaced by Michael Kumberai.