DURBAN – A welcome characteristic of tough forwards is that they can’t be bothered with platitudes. They prefer to shoot straight from the hip, as was the case with Sharks flank Jacques Vermeulen yesterday when asked about his team’s rematch with the Bulls on Saturday at Jonsson Kings Park.
“We’ve got a bone to pick with them Definitely,” the tough-as-granite Vermeulen said.
Clearly the horror of the 37-14 defeat at Loftus three weeks ago has not faded, although the comprehensive win over the Rebels at the weekend has soothed some of the pain, Vermeulen added.
“We know how the feeling was in the change-room after that game against the Bulls,” the 24-year-old said. “There was a lot of disappointment and frustration, and we would very much like to change that.”
Vermeulen, an SA Schools representative in 2013 and a member of the SA Under-20 team in 2014 and 2015, said the Sharks had been frustrated at Loftus because they could not get out of their half the Bulls forwards had got on top and then Springbok flyhalf Handre Pollard had done the rest.
“Territory is going to be a massive part of this week’s game,” he said before pointing out that this did not mean the Sharks are focussing primarily on kicking for field position.
“Probably the strongest part of our game is how dangerous we become when we keep the ball. It is so important this week to get into the right positions on the field and then keep the ball.”
In other words the Sharks want to pick up where they left off against the Rebels. They were tentative in the first half, but in the second they kept the ball and played some exceptional rugby to score two tries (with a third disallowed) while keeping the Rebels scoreless.
“The victory over the Rebels has brought the confidence right back into the camp after those two derby losses to the Stormers and Bulls,” Vermeulen said.
“After the bye week we put the emphasis on getting physical against the Rebels, especially after we got a 50-point beating from them in Melbourne last year, and then in the second half our game came together nicely, with forwards and backs combining well.
“We left everything out on the park in the second half.
“That is how we want to play against the Bulls.”
There was a big boost for the Sharks at training yesterday when experienced flank Philip van der Walt came through the session unscathed. Van der Walt looks set to start against the Bulls, with youngster Phepsi Buthelezi making way.
Van der Walt returned to the Sharks from Japan in January with a thigh contusion and is yet to play this season. His strong leadership will be vital to the Sharks’ cause against the Bulls.@MikeGreenaway67