DURBAN - With the Currie Cup closing in on the half way mark, there could be no better approach to the Currie Cup milestone for the Sharks, who harvested a full-house 15 log points in the space of eight days to go top of the table last week.
It won’t worry the Sharks that the Cheetahs have nudged ahead of them at the top after their thrilling 41-40 win over the Bulls, and the KZN team will go ahead once more if they beat Western Province in Cape Town at the weekend.
The front-line Cheetahs players will be playing Pro14 rugby in the Northern Hemisphere in a month and their second-stringers will soon be overhauled by the likes of the hungry Sharks.
The Durban team lost to the Free Staters in the first round but in general have been on a steep upward curve since, and the word “impressive” is the only way you can describe a home win over Griquas (unbeaten at the time) and then away victories over the Bulls and the Lions, in just over the space of a week.
“Now we travel to Western Province for a game that could have a big impact on how we finish up on the table,” forwards coach Jaco Pienaar said.
Pienaar is a maths and science teacher by trade and by the age of 22 had come to the conclusion that he was better suited to the rugby blackboard than playing hooker.
When Robert du Preez entered the Leopards region as coach of the Varsity Cup team, he spotted the investigative talents of Pienaar, who has variously been a head coach, forwards coach, and defence coach.
A quiet character that prefers to fly as far under the radar as possible, Pienaar says the break last week came just as his forwards were falling across the finish line, so to speak.
“The bye could not have come sooner,” Pienaar said. “We have had our much-needed rest and now it is about picking up the momentum.
“But we can’t complain about being overplayed because it was the same for all the teams. We are just grateful that we got the points.
“But we cannot carry on with the same starting 15 week after week and we have to use the squad system. And that is fine with us because we have such good young talent coming through,” the coach said.
“Look at a guy like (flank) Jacques Vermeulen, who is suddenly getting a lot of attention. We have players like this coming through.”
In a double round of Currie Cup, a team cannot do with just 15 players starting round after round.
“You need a healthy squad, and while people have been asking when we will start with a guy like (hooker) Akker van der Merwe, the answer is that the squad system will prevail, and a guy like Akker (freshly imported from the Lions) is still settling in and learning the calls,” Pienaar said.
At the same time, there is nothing wrong with SA A hooker Franco Marais, who is one of the most under-rated hookers in the country.