DURBAN – “We are going down there to do a job, and that is to bring back the four points back,” was the simple statement by coach Robert du Preez as the Sharks head to the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth today to take on a Kings side that has enhanced their reputation since the two teams last met.

It was a rather straightforward comment, from a straightforward man, but it said a lot about the mindset the Sharks are in as they prepare for a replay of a game that they almost lost back in March, in Durban. The biggest clue is that the bonus points-shy Sharks are not eyeing an easy five points in this game either (5.15pm kickoff).

After last year’s baptism of fire for the under-prepared, and somewhat under-loved Kings, not many teams took them seriously in the opening rounds this year, including the Sharks.

They beat the Sunwolves in Round Two in what was assumed to be the battle for the wooden spoon, but when they came to Durban and the Sharks switched to low gear, there was almost an almighty upset but for the boot of Curwin Bosch saving the home team’s blushes.

The Kings have now gone on to beat the Waratahs in Sydney and smash the Rebels in their last two encounters, and although their three wins from nine games is nothing spectacular in terms of the big picture, they have got the rugby fraternity talking.

The Kings are playing good rugby, they are exciting, and look to be having fun. They may still be considered a bottom-ranked team, but even that tag is hanging loose on their neck in the eyes of the Sharks.

“I am glad you used the word supposedly (weak),” coach Du Preez retorted when asked about the difference in stature of his team and the Kings for Saturday’s clash. “In reality, that is not what it is like. It is going to be really tough down there; they have been playing really good rugby.”

The talk in Port Elizabeth is about filling up the stadium, rallying the fans to come and support the Kings in this grudge match replay which the hosts believe they can win.

The atmosphere has been building all week, especially out of the Eastern Cape, but to the Sharks’ credit, they have refused to be swept up in it. Referring back to Du Preez’s initial comment, there is a job to be done.

The coach says he is excited about the prospect of a full stadium, and in that, rugby is the winner. 

But there has been no showboating or complacency, nor on the other side of the spectrum, fear and feelings of intimidation from the Sharks. 

They are simply prepared to win this tough away game.

“We will play our game. It is fantastic for rugby (for the stadium to be filled), it is a region that has a proud history, so that is awesome to see, and to know that there will be a lot of spectators is great. It is always nice to play in front of a large crowd,” Du Preez said.

With the Lions winning a close one in Canberra yesterday, hopes of topping the Africa Two group have probably evaporated for the Sharks. However, their mandate will be to keep winning games – especially this one, and the next tricky trip to Singapore for the Sunwolves.


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