DURBAN - The Sharks have put last week’s glitch against Western Province down to a mental holiday and have swiftly moved on to the very real business of a game that counts on Saturday - a Currie Cup semi-final at Kings Park against the Blue Bulls.
The Sharks did not pitch up for work in a game that was meaningless to them on the final standings and were well-beaten 31-20 by a visiting team that had everything riding on the match.
Defence coach Ryan Strudwick said that the squad had briefly discussed the error of their ways and swiftly moved on to urgent matters at hand.
“The mistakes we made last week were elementary ones that we don’t normally make, so there is no point in dwelling too much on that game. There was very little we could take out of that performance. Mentally, we were not there. We were simply poor.” Strudwick said.
“We acknowledged that, and quickly put it behind us. The players had already discussed it among themselves and were in agreement. Nobody had a stand-out game. Normally after a game, we have our own internal man-of-the-match awards but we could not pick one after the WP game. Enough said.”
Strudwick said it will be back to business as usual for the Sharks this week as they look to what they focused so hard in training all season and which worked for them in 10 consecutive victories.
“We are not going to change anything now. We know the drill. And mentally, nobody has to say a word,” he said. “Obviously, there is everything to play for this week.
"Semi-finals are played on the edge. You have to stick to the basics and cut out errors. You do everything at 110 percent because it will come down to who wants it more.”
On the injury front, there was good and bad news for the Sharks.
Flank Jacques Vermeulen is unlikely to recover from a rib cartilage injury but Jean-Luc du Preez should be fit to take his place after a shoulder problem. Prop Thomas du Toit seems to have recovered from the quad knock he took against Province and which forced him off the field.
While the Sharks are heavily focusing on what has worked for them in the Currie Cup, they have also taken in how former All Black coach John Mitchell has transformed the way the Bulls play since taking over from Nollis Marais mid-season.
“As defence coach, I obviously look at how they play, and Mitch has given the Bulls a new style of play, which is typically Kiwi,” Strudwick said. “Their forwards still come round the corner at you but they have moved on from their old one-off runner, bashing style of old.
"The forwards are now looking to handle the ball and look for support runners. You never saw that from Bulls forwards before. The Bulls will now attack from anywhere. They are now (not) afraid to have a crack from behind their goal line.”
The Mitchell style of play is heavily based on winning the gain line battle to initiate momentum to attack. “We have to win that battle (the gain line),” Strudwick agreed. “It is going to be key to the outcome of the match.”