DURBAN – Former England loose forward Nick Easter is licking his lips at the form of the Sharks’ loose trio and warns that there is a lot more to come from them.
Easter played 56 Tests for England and is now making his way in the coaching world, starting with a stint in Durban. He says it is no coincidence that the Sharks have been playing much better since key forwards returned from injury and played their way to their best form.
“Philip van der Walt (who missed the first five weeks of the season with a thigh injury) is calm under pressure and has really got stuck in,” Easter said. “Jean-Luc Du Preez (back for a while now from a groin injury) has massive X-factor as far as physicality is concerned and he gives great belief to the rest of the forward pack.”
At No 8, Dan du Preez has been consistently good all year and combined with his twin brother and Van der Valt, it makes for a beefy unit.
“Also, (lock) Ruan Botha has been fantastic since he came back (from an ankle problem) with his leadership and physicality,” Easter added. “He is a very physical player and is a strong leader. So of course it makes a big difference when you get top quality players back.
“I love working with these guys and seeing their potential. We’re still not there in terms of maximising it and getting the best out of them, but there has been massive improvements individually and collectively this season, and that is what we continue to try and do each week.”
Easter said the Sharks’ three-week tour of Australasia gave the squad the opportunity to sort out what went wrong in the pre-tour home games against the Jaguares and Reds.
“New systems were put in place (at the beginning of the season) and it takes a while to bed them in,” he said. “On tour we had the time and the tools to fix things, with no distractions.
“It is not just about rugby, it is about understanding each other. We bonded well and that creates a trust when you are under pressure You start to care for each other and the team a lot more. We won one and against the Crusaders we were leading with a minute to go, so we have to be doing something right.”
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The Sharks seem to save their best for Kiwi opposition and Easter says only the best will do if the Sharks want to win.
“The Hurricanes are coming off a loss (to the Jaguares) and the bye so they will be highly motivated,” Easter said. “They will have the same motivation to beat an SA team as we do to beat New Zealand teams.
They are familiar with Durban, their head coach (John Plumtree) coached here for a very long time. This is no foreign territory for them and they got over here a bit early as well. They will be smarting from that loss. We know we have to play for the full 80 to contain such a quality side.”@MikeGreenaway67