Sharks' balance gives them an edge

Tue, 23 Oct 2012 06:49
Large sharks scrum630 Large grant bashford630

The Sharks believe that their superior balance between attack and defence has given them the edge over their opposition this season.

The Sharks believe that their superior balance between attack and defence has given them the edge over their opposition this season.

The Durban side are preparing to host a home final after topping the Currie Cup log and playing in the Super Rugby Final, and assistant coach Grant Bashford believes that the key to their success has been their ability to put the opposition under pressure on both attack and defence.

The Sharks backline mentor pointed out that although his team have played the majority of their home games in wet conditions, they have still socred plenty of tries and completed nine out of ten tackles.

"Definitely we have enough opportunity to practice in the wet this campaign and we've had a lot of wet weather games, but having said that, we still scored the highest number of tries in the tournament so it isn't like the wet weather has affected our try-scoring ability.

"The biggest plus for us is that the group shows a good balance between attack and defence, we've managed to defend really well, this weekend we achieved 93 percent tackle stats. And when we've had the ball, we've been able to put teams under pressure as well,

"We've been able to hang on to the ball for long periods of time, we have enough X-factor in our backline that we can hurt people. And when they have the ball, we're able to put them under pressure defensively," he said.

Bashford said that another positive for his side has been their defensive discipline which has seen them fail to concede a try in the last two matches.

"The players have stepped up hugely in terms of defence, statistically, we're the best side in the competition, averaging 90 percent for the tournament which is huge, especially with the young group because that is generally the area you find them most wanting.

"It's been really good and in the last two weeks, to keep the opposition from scoring any tries against us has been rewarding. Even with a minute to go against the Bulls, when they were pressing on our line and the game was already won, there was enough pride in the group that they didn't want any tries scored against them," he said.

Bashford said that whilst making a fast start like they did in the 2010 final against Province would be a great boost, the Sharks are aware of the Cape side's ability to play for 80 minutes as they showed in their last-gasp semifinal victory over the Lions last weekend.

"In the 2010 final against Western Province we had a really good start, we were quite well up in the first 20 minutes and in play-offs, it's always difficult to come back, especially with the pressure involved.

"So although we started well in that game, if you look at Province this past weekend, they never gave up against the Lions, they managed to hang-in, there was belief and they backed their driving line-out at the end to win them the game," he said.

The only injury concerns for the Sharks is prop Jannie du Plessis who will not take any contact in training until Thursday as a precaution for the concussion he suffered in the semifinal victory over the Bulls, and coach John Plumtree will be further boosted by the return to training of Odwa Ndungane (ankle) and Jacques Botes (back) on Tuesday.

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Free State Cheetahs 8 8 0 0 39
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EP Kings 8 0 0 8 1