Sharks looking to shed 'chokers' tag
Tue, 29 Jan 2013 13:27
It's often those little failures
Sharks assistant coach Hugh Reece-Edwards said the teams is getting "annoyed" with not being able to win finals.
The men from Durban have lost in their last three finals - in two successive Currie Cup tournaments and the 2012 Super Rugby season.
In fact they are the most successful team never to have won a Super Rugby crown - runners-up four times, reached the semifinals on three more occasions and the preliminary play-offs on another.
However, they feel that 2013 is the year where they can go all the way.
"We've reached three finals in a row now and haven't nailed any of them, and the guys are getting a bit annoyed about that," Reece-Edwards said on the Sharks' website.
"We know what we have to do, we know where we've made mistakes and that's a good thing.
"It's often those little failures that direct you as to where you need to do better and we've identified that, the players know it.
"The mental preparation we need to put into this is massive."
That is why setting the right foundation for the campaign ahead is just as important as the campaign itself, according to the former Springbok fullback said.
Fortunately for The Sharks, their pre-season is not only on track, but according to Reece-Edwards, one of the better ones they have had in recent years, if not the best.
"We're happy with where we are," he told the Sharks website.
"If I look back two years at this time, we were really just starting out in terms of the way we were going to play and trying a few things out. Now the squad is quite settled and there is a good understanding of what we want to do."
Not only is the squad in good shape, but their depth means that there is quality in every position, with capable back-up in case of injury or rotation.
"Depth-wise, there are two players in virtually every position fighting for that position, which is a healthy state for us to be in. But even if you have all that, the mind-sets have to be right and that is something we really have to nail down this year and that starts now."
The former Sharks fullback took note of last year's campaign - which was built off a solid finish, rather than a spectacular beginning - and admits that if they want to achieve their aims, they have to start strong.
"We can't start by losing the first few games and then playing catch-up, we have to start by playing positive, winning rugby. And we have to maintain that. We have to look after the players, we have to manage each player. We're in a situation this year where we have a certain amount of depth and we can do that. The ball is in our court at the moment, we've got to use it, and use it well."
In the last few years, The Sharks have had one or two games before heading off for their four match overseas tour, but this year will play eight games in South Africa (five at home) before touring which gives them an opportunity of building up a nice head of steam.
"The draw is quite different to what we've had and we're quite happy with that," he says. "We have more games at home to start off with and there's the humidity factor to help us. But on the other side, we tour later to Australasia which means probably more rain and a bit colder then, but we played in lots of rain last year, so it's not the biggest concern for us.
"So we are quite happy to be at home initially and get some good games under the belt. A good start is going to be really important, if we get going well, then it paves the way for further down the line in the competition."
Given The Sharks progress last year, making the top 6 and going on to contest the final - but playing all three knock-out matches in the Finals Series - clearly the desire is to play some or all of those games at home.
"I think it goes without saying that we would like to be Conference or log winners after the pool stages, that's something you always want, but it starts with winning your home games. We have a few of those before we travel so it is really going to be important, and then obviously getting points when we are away.
"There is no reason why this side can't do well. It's something the players are aware of, something we are all aware of, and again, it's going to come down to us doing the right things at the right time."
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