Sharks looking to bounce back
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The last time the coach of a South African rugby team ignored Hamilton and chose to prepare for a match there on the Australian coast instead, there was an outcry in the Waikato farming area and Peter de Villiers was asked to apologise to the Mayor of Hamilton when the Boks eventually arrived the day before the match after having relaxed at Surfers Paradise on the Queensland coast.
De Villiers laughed off the Mayor and the next day the Boks beat the All Blacks, so it was “all’s well that ends well”.
This week the Sharks are doing their training for their match against the Chiefs in the Sydney suburb of Manly, a delightful, sunny coastal town. The hotel steps just about finish on the beach and that is where the Sharks found themselves when they arrived in Sydney after a 12-hour flight from Johannesburg.
They spent the afternoon stretching their legs on a long walk and then some splashing about in rock pools.
In Hamilton, they might have been counting sheep.
Also, the idea was to break up the travelling.
After the 12-hour flight from Joburg there would have been a two-hour wait for a four-hour flight to Auckland and then a three-hour drive to Hamilton.
The Sharks now travel to Hamilton on Thursday after having recovered from the long-haul flight.
It is, of course, a replay of last year’s final, although both teams are nowhere near the form that won them a place in the showdown for the title.
The Sharks played blistering rugby towards the end of last year’s competition to force their way into the play-offs and eventually the final while the Chiefs were irresistible all year long, but over the last fortnight, both the Chiefs and the Sharks have dropped home and away matches.
The Chiefs lost to the Reds in Hamilton two weeks ago and lost to the Waratahs in Sydney at the weekend while the Sharks lost away to the Stormers before faltering against the Cheetahs at Kings Park last week.
“Both teams will be very eager to get their campaigns back on track,” said Sharks assistant coach Grant Bashford.
“And for us it is even more important because we have to get our tour off on the right note. We don’t want to have lost three in a row as we hit our second tour game (the Highlanders in Dunedin).
Bashford said the try drought the Sharks are experiencing is a growing concern but that he would be more worried if there were no opportunities being created.
“Handling errors and poor option taking are letting us down,” he said.
“Take Paul Jordaan’s brilliant (80m) break at the death against the Cheetahs, that should have been finished off if there had been better option taking (Ignoring a massive overlap to the right and breaking inside instead).
“What we have to do to is get players like Paul into space more often.
“We have enough players with X-factor and are not exploiting them.
“Try-scoring is a confidence thing and when it does not happen for a while you start worrying about it, and then you try too hard to make it happen.” - The Star