DURBAN – The Sharks will have had two weeks to digest their opening round loss to the Lions ahead of Saturday’s home game against the Waratahs and will have worked ceaselessly on their obvious ailments that were exposed in Johannesburg.
They will also have gone to school in depth on the Waratahs’ last-minute victory over the Stormers in Sydney at the weekend, a game the Capetonians should have won.
But they did not win and for the Waratahs there could not have been more of a morale boost to pack into their suitcases in Sydney than an emotional, character-building win.
The 2014 championship winners have been struggling in recent years under coach Daryl Gibson, the former All Blacks centre, and last year they had a horrid season that included a home loss to struggling South African team, the Kings.
Gibson has done some wise recruiting in the off-season, including bringing back to Sydney the exceptional playmaker that is Kurtley Beale.
The latter can play most positions in the backline but is most effective at centre where he can bring out the best in players such as the brilliant winger Israel Folau.
In a setback for the Waratahs, a casualty of the win over the Stormers is highly experienced lock Rob Simmons.
Simmons injured a thigh and will not travel to Durban, meaning the New South Wales pack loses out on his 82-Test cap experience.
The injury means the pack will be short on experienced firepower.
Props Tom Robertson and Paddy Ryan, plus second-rower Ned Hanigan, with just 33 Test caps between them, are the most experienced players in the tight five. It will be an area the Sharks will look to target, especially after having been exposed against the Lions in the set piece department.
The Sharks have been licking their wounds since the set scrum humiliation against the Lions and will be looking to make a statement in this regard on Saturday.
The Waratahs have begun the season in confident mood. In warm-up games, they had good wins over the Rebels and the Highlanders, and although they were friendlies, the form of the Rebels and the Highlanders at the weekend showed that they are seriously good sides.
And then, of course, they found the character to dig deep and snatch the win over the Stormers at the weekend.