DURBAN – It may sound like an obvious statement in the realms of competitive sport, but when Sharks coach Robert du Preez says that they are “here to win”, it resonates. Especially considering the Sharks are heading into the business end of the season.
The Highlanders descend upon Kings Park tomorrow at 5pm with a victory behind their name that they stole out of the grasp of the Bulls at Loftus. They will be a tough opponent to get points out of, but as the home side say, they have to win.
The Sharks are bottom of the South African log, but there is not too much to be read into that as they were sitting second for most of the season until this point. It is just that the log has become so congested that the Jaguares, in second, are only two points ahead of the Durban-outfit.
What it does mean though is that points suddenly become vital, and Du Preez’s words ring true.
“For us it is a game that is at home and we need to win our home games. This is going to be a massive game for us. They (the Highlanders) would have taken a lot out of their performance against the Bulls, they are a good team, but we are here to win - we have to win this game,” the coach said.
The Sharks are coming off a bye, but before that they beat the Stormers, which not only helped them up the table, but kept their direct opponents down.
They will be hopeful of carrying that momentum, teamed with the break, into this clash with the New Zealanders.
“It was a much needed bye, you can see it in the players, they are really energised, and we have had some really good practices this week,” Du Preez explained.
The Sharks will also be quietly confident about a visit from a top-notch Kiwi side where others wouldn’t be because of how things have gone in the past. The Durban team seemed to have cracked the Kiwi code somewhat this year after they managed to score over 100 points on enemy soil, beating the Blues and just missing out to the Hurricanes.
“It will give the boys confidence (having done so well against New Zealand sides), but every game is a new game, these guys play a good brand of rugby, they keep the ball and they are relentless on defence so we will have to break them down and we have to be patient.”
Coach du Preez welcomes back the Sharks’ longest serving stalwart in Beast Mtawarira, the Bok prop missing the past two games, but having recovered well over the break from a groin strain.
He will be scrumming alongside a new hooker in Akker van der Merwe. The explosive front ranker will surely add a lot in attack.
Finally, the last change is also in the pack as Stephan Lewies earns a break and is rotated to the bench for Tyler Paul.
The Sharks team is:
15. Curwin Bosch, 14. Sbu Nkosi, 13. Lukhanyo Am, 12. Andre Esterhuizen, 11. Makazole Mapimpi, 10. Robert du Preez, 9. Cameron Wright, 8. Daniel du Preez, 7. Jean-Luc du Preez 6. Philip van der Walt, 5. Ruan Botha (captain), 4. Tyler Paul, 3. Thomas du Toit, 2. Akker van der Merwe, 1. Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16. Franco Marais, 17. Juan Schoeman, 18. Ross Geldenhuys, 19. Stephan Lewies, 20. Jacques Vermeulen, 21. Louis Schreuder, 22. Marius Louw, 23. Lwazi Mvovo.