DURBAN - The Waratahs will be aware that they will be up against a fired-up Sharks pack on Saturday at Kings Park as the forwards respond to criticism that has been simmering for two weeks.
The lingering discussion in the media about the Sharks’ capability to scrum effectively after the mauling dished out by the Lions’ front row has stung Ruan Botha’s forward unit, and there has been no shortage of sweaty labour ever since, according to forwards coach Jaco Pienaar.
“Obviously we have had a very good look at the footage of the game and we have indentified areas that can be corrected in training, and we most certainly have been putting in the effort in that regard,” Pienaar said.
“Also, there is nothing better than game time to sort things out,” Pienaar said, in reference to young Thomas du Toit’s move from loosehead to tighthead.
“Time in the saddle for Thomas is priceless,” Pienaar said. ‘‘It will make a huge difference with the addition of the experience of The Beast at loosehead.”
Mtawarira played off the bench against the Lions after having had a period of personal leave and the Sharks scrummed much better against the Lions when the Springbok came on.
Pienaar was a keen observer of the Waratah’s last-gasp win over the Stormers at the weekend and feels the fighting spirit showed by the home side indicates their desire to bounce back from a horror season last year.
“The Stormers are a quality side and they were on top for long periods of that game but the Waratahs showed true grit to fight back,” Pienaar said. “A team that is short on team spirit does not win games at the hooter. The Waratahs are looking to bounce back and are big on desire, and that is priceless.”
Pienaar pointed out that the Australians put the Stormers lineout under pressure for much of the game and scrummed strongly against a Stormers pack that put the Sharks under serious pressure in two Currie Cup games late last year, notably in the Currie Cup final.
“The Stormers did get on top in Sydney towards the end of the game but the Waratahs showed that they have a very good set piece,” Pienaar said. “That is a very good Stormers tight five.”
The Sharks have potentially the best backline in the competition and Pienaar admits that his pack is under pressure to provide front foot ball. “We need to create the platform for the backs, we need no reminding of what our backs can do with quality ball,” he said. “We also want to make our own impact in being physical and direct. We want to be an attacking unit as well as good providers.”
The good news is that the Sharks forwards are getting closer to full strength. The Du Preez twins are not far off playing, with Jean-Luc already training after a long rehab that started after the Currie Cup final, while brother Dan is three weeks from recovering from the shoulder injury he sustained against the Lions. No 8 Keegan Daniel is over the illness that kept him out of the Lions game.