Sharks up against it
Fri, 10 Aug 2012 12:42
We are looking forward to it but we are playing sides that haven’t lost as many players as us, so we are really up against it this campaign.
The Sharks are under no illusions how great the challenge will be in this year’s Currie Cup without several of their star players.
While Western Province will be fresh, but hurting after the Stormers’ loss in the Super Rugby semi-final (to the Sharks) of a tournament they would have had aspirations of winning, Saturday’s Currie Cup opener is expected to be a tough, first game up for the Sharks.
“Any away game for us first game up would be tough,” explains Sharks assistant coach Hugh Reece-Edwards.
“Province last played two weeks ago and they don’t like us, obviously, but when we go down there, we want to put one over them, so there is no difference between the teams in that respect.
“It is probably a bigger ask for us because of the numbers we’ve lost compared to them, but the passion and commitment from our guys will certainly be up there.
“And while they have numbers and had a break, there is also quite a bit of disappointment, whereas in our camp, while we might have lost in the final, we’re really proud. And we’re happy to take that into this campaign.”
Looking back at the Super Rugby season, it was a tale of two halves. “We put ourselves into a situation where, for the last nine rounds, we were playing knockout rugby; we won eight of the last nine games to reach the final, and although we can’t say we like putting ourselves under pressure, the great thing was how we responded to the pressure.
“At the end of the day, it was one bridge too far for us, and certainly the first half of the campaign is where we should have capitalised a little bit more and put a few more points on the log.
“Then we would have been sitting in a position where we had a home quarter or even home semi, or a break, and if you have one of those in your favour, you certainly give yourself a much better chance of winning the competition.
“That travel factor does add up, but the great thing is that none of us used it as an excuse, we went out there and although we didn’t win, we’re still very proud of the team. And disappointed that with this side, we know we can do well, we can win, but didn’t manage to.”
Despite being against the odds in the final, against a side that had an extra day’s preparation and had been sleeping in their own beds for weeks, the Sharks took a lot of belief into the game.
“We went into the final honestly believing that we could do something special. After 20 minutes, being up on the scoreboard reflected the passion from the guys, but the Chiefs also showed a huge amount of passion and played some really fantastic rugby.
“And with the number of tackles we had to make, up around the 200 mark for the third week in a row, it probably took its toll and it wasn’t to be. The guys didn’t stop trying, but no excuses, the Chiefs played some really good rugby and deserved to win on the day.”
The Sharks have finished one campaign and now start a new one immediately, and with the number of players away, the opportunities for younger players are there.
“We have a number of young guys who now have to step up to the mark and take the place of those players missing from our squad. There is a fair amount of pressure on them to make a mark, their futures are at stake.
“We are looking forward to it but we are playing sides that haven’t lost as many players as us, so we are really up against it this campaign. We got back late on Sunday after 28 hours of travel, straight into preparation, we have to rest some players who are exhausted and that doesn’t make it easy, but if one thing will come out of it, it’s the character of the team.”
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