DURBAN - The word out of New Zealand is that the Chiefs, already low on players due to an injury crisis, are now also stripped of their All Black contingent heading into their Super Rugby clash against the Sharks at Kings Park on Saturday.
Immediately, it looks as if it is advantage Sharks with Richie McCaw’s understudy Sam Cane, World Player of the Year Brodie Retallick, electrifying attacking threat Damian McKenzie, and four front rankers all at an All Black national camp.
However, Sharks flyhalf Robert du Preez says that nothing has changed for the home team as they prepare to face their fourth New Zealand opponents this season.
“New Zealand teams can put out a team with zero Super Rugby caps and they will still be sharp; that is just the way they are, they just churn out players like it is nothing,” Du Preez said. “We can’t take this game lightly.
For the Sharks, it is much more about focusing on what they need to do rather than what their opponents will be capable of doing, as they look to build on what was a courageous loss to the Bulls in Pretoria last weekend.
“They obviously have their things to do, with their All Blacks resting, or whatever the case may be, but we have a job to do and it is more about us, rather than who they put out in front of us,” Du Preez added.
“Whether they put out their full-strength team or their third-string team, we still have a job to do so we have to focus on our processes and make sure we do the crowd some good this weekend.”
We caught up with @CellC Sharks flyhalf Robert du Preez before the team plays on Saturday, as they look forward to fronting up against their Kiwi opponents @ChiefsRugby at JONSSON KINGS PARK. #SHAvCHI #OurSharksForever pic.twitter.com/dn7k8FEFUv
The Sharks have shown in their three previous matches against Kiwi teams that they know how to handle the often unstoppable and unpredictable New Zealand sides.
They beat the Blues in Auckland, scoring 60-plus points, lost in unfortunate circumstances to the Hurricanes in Napier by a point, then returned home and thrashed the Highlanders.
However, although it looks as if they have cracked the "Kiwi code", Du Preez is a bit wary of flaunting that idea.
“If you tell the New Zealand sides you have cracked their code, then they will change the code,” Du Preez grinned.
“We have had some success against them but I wouldn’t say we have cracked any code; I think we just lift ourselves.”
Du Preez then got a little philosophical, delving into why the Sharks have not managed to maintain their high standards in all their games this season.
“That is probably part of the problem,” he mused. “Playing against home unions, the boys are not mentally there, but for the New Zealand games you pick yourself up, which isn’t right but it is part of the issue.
"We have done well against the New Zealand sides, they will know that, so they will come very well prepared.”
The Chiefs will know they have a tough task, especially with as many as 20 of their squad missing due to injury and the All Black camp.
There will be a host of new faces, but as veteran hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle says: “The only thing that will change for the game is that if it is 10 changes, then it will be 10 hungrier players who have not had the opportunity to play at this level that are looking forward to their chance; it could make the game even tougher.”
Chiefs injuries: Aidan Ross (ankle), Kane Hames (concussion/ABs camp), Mitchell Graham (leg), Nathan Harris (ABs camp), Atu Moli (quad hematoma/ABs camp), Nepo Laulala (arm/ABs camp), Brodie Retallick (ABs camp), Fin Hoeata (shoulder), Dominic Bird (shoulder), Mitchell Brown (knee), Lachlan Boshier (appendicitis), Sam Cane (abdominal/ABs camp), Mitchell Karpik (concussion), Taleni Seu (back), Damian McKenzie (ABs camp), Tiaan Falcon (hand), Anton Lienert-Brown (ABs camp), Regan Verney (groin), Sam McNicol (concussion), Tim Nanai-Williams (shoulder)