Springbok prop Tendai Mtawarira says the Sharks senior players must step up. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix
DURBAN - Tendai Mtawarira was in solemn mood on Tuesday when he apologised for the Sharks “no-show” last week against the Rebels before grim-facedly promising: This one is for the fans.

He was talking about Saturday night’s Super Rugby return match against the Jaguares in Buenos Aires, a match the Sharks have to win to stay ahead of the currently third-placed Argentines in the Africa Conference 2.

A loss would be catastrophic for the Sharks’ playoff aspirations.

“We are very disappointed in our performance (in drawing 9-9 with the Rebels at Kings Park),” the player known as The Beast growled.

“We are going to rectify matters. We had a heck of an analysis of that Rebels game and that has set the tone for the week.

“We have put ourselves in a position where this could be a season decider.”

After the match, angry coach Robert du Preez, amongst other things, pointed the finger at his senior players.

Mtawarira, a former captain of the Sharks, knows he was one of the players Du Preez was alluding to. This week the coach wants less of Tendai and more of The Beast.

“The senior players could have done better,” he admitted.

“The onus is on the guys that have been around a while to gear the youngsters up and steer them in the right direction, lead from the front and show them what is expected.”

Mtawarira said this week’s game was about attitude and sticking to the structures that the players have had drilled into them since pre-season, and not panicking as they did against the Rebels.

“We know exactly what we have to do,” the 31-year-old said.

“We must stick to our processes and then execute properly. Last week we could not finish anything.”

It truly is a big game for the Springbok loosehead, who has a national record of 87 caps for a Bok prop.

There are several young bucks out there trying to get the attention of national coach Allister Coetzee.

There is also the matter of 168 caps for the Sharks since he made his debut in 2006, 131 of them Super Rugby caps.

So with all the experience in the world, Mtawaria needs to rise to the occasion for his team on Saturday and set the example.

“It is going to be tough there. It always is. I have played there many times for the Boks and a few times for the Sharks and it is a very different atmosphere,” he said.

“The crowd is hostile and very noisy. There is a lot of banging and shouting and the home team feeds off the emotions of the crowd.

“The trick is to not get side-tracked by the side-shows in the stands and rather feed off the atmosphere as the home team does, rather than be intimidated by it.”

Mtawarira said that the Jaguares would be more physical than ever on their home turf and the Sharks had to match that physicality while watching their discipline.

“They are going to come at us, make no mistake, but we have to make sure we are smart in how we play and don’t get sucked into playing to their strengths,” he said.

“Discipline is vital. We have actually been bringing our penalty count down over the season. The problem is that when we do get penalised, it is usually a card or something costly!”

The Mercury

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