DURBAN – The Sharks may be coming off a Super Rugby loss to the Bulls, but it was by no means a 40-10 humbling like they suffered in their first encounter against the Pretoria-based outfit.
They now have a chance to showcase their abilities as they face a fourth New Zealand side this season, having shone in the three other outings.
The Chiefs, who face the Sharks at Kings Park tomorrow (3pm), are well understrength thanks to a contingent of missing All Blacks, and a spate of injuries.
But for the Sharks it is more about introspection than planning what they will do against the Chiefs. They need a win in a congested log with only five games left, and that means respecting the opposition at all costs.
“We have spoken about the Chiefs and their selection, so we know whatever team they put out it will be a good team, it is a New Zealand team and we respect them,” said Sharks coach Robert du Preez.
Having missed out on four points, only picking up the losing bonus point in Pretoria, the Sharks know they need to make strides on the log and the best way is to focus on the result first.
“Winning comes first and if there is a bonus point that will be great, but that is not a consideration for us; we won’t change the way we play,” Du Preez added.
It seems for the Sharks that despite the loss, there is a lot to build on. They managed to identify problem areas, and are working to fix those, rather than getting complacent against a Chiefs team missing upwards of 20 players.
“I have always said that if the effort is there, and the intensity, then we cannot fault the players, and that was there against the Bulls,” the coach said.
“We started badly, and then giving away a yellow card really cost us, but we have spoken about the stuff we need to work on”
Also in the Sharks’ favour this weekend is the fact that they seem to revel in playing New Zealand sides, although the coach, as well as the players talking through the week, were trying not to make too much of this.
“I don’t think it is just because that we are playing New Zealand teams that they guys are getting themselves up,” Du Preez rebutted to a question about the Sharks upping their game in the face of Kiwi opposition. “But there is really a good vibe and they are keen to get out there and rectify last week’s performance.”
The Chiefs team does indeed look very different to the one that was named for the Stormers the week before, which the Waikato side won in a low-scoring affair.
All Blacks quartet Damian McKenzie, Brodie Retallick, Anton Lienert-Brown and Nathan Harris flew back to New Zealand to attend a North Island camp. However, the side is not lacking in skill, experience, or quality.
Veteran All Black Liam Messam starts, while Maori All Black Charlie Ngatai captains from outside centre having played fullback last week. McKenzie’s brother Marty takes over his No 10 jersey, while the powerful Sean Whanui will look to stamp his authority on the game.