DURBAN - After winning their first Currie Cup match at home against the Blue Bulls last weekend, the Sharks now head to Bloemfontein to face the Free State Cheetahs, still aware that every point counts. What will be aiding this on Saturday is the fact that the Free State team are stretched on two fronts.
Unique to the Cheetahs is that they are competing in two competitions at the same time. There is the Currie Cup, which has lost a lot of its lustre and appeal of late, and the PRO14 which involves teams from Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Italy and South Africa.
When the Sharks and Cheetahs kickoff at the Free State Stadium on the weekend, half of their team will be at Thomond Park, in Ireland, getting ready to play against Munster. And, it is no secret that their top players will be up in Limerick this weekend.
The Cheetahs are also coming off two losses in their opening two games of the Currie Cup - and this is before the PRO14 had even kicked off. However, despite having all these factors seemingly against the Bloemfontein team, the Sharks have assured that they will not be complacent on Saturday.
“We’re playing away from home and Bloemfontein is never an easy place to win, so we know what we’re up against,” said flank Tyler Paul. “We’ve been speaking through the week about regardless of the team they put out, we still have to prepare the same way. If they field a weaker side we will still prepare as we do every week, the best we can.”
The Sharks are looking to go one step further than they did in the Currie Cup last year, and to that end, it has been about building on the good they did in Super Rugby, rather than starting all over again.
“There hasn’t be a whole lot of change,” Paul explained. “That’s nice because nothing is foreign to the players in the squad. And we’ll look to sort out the things we didn’t get right in Super Rugby now. Building for the future means doing well in this Currie Cup and we’ll look to perform as best we can.”
Paul will look to be an integral part of the Currie Cup. He is equally adept at flank as he is at lock, and he is known to add a lot of grunt and hard work to the Sharks’ pack, but the 23-year-old also knows that he has to keep working hard.
“As soon as you think you own the jersey, someone else could take it away from you. So that’s not a good philosophy and therefore my goal in the Currie Cup is to perform week in and week out.”