Sharks to raise bar to Lions' level
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Start from scratch and build a solid foundation for future success.
It may sound like a cliche, but it is a proven formula and one the Sharks are looking to follow.
One-time Springbok lock Stephan Lewies, at 24 one of the 'senior' players in the Sharks squad, said they can take a leaf out of the Lions' book and become a major force again.
Lewies, speaking to the media ahead of their Currie Cup Round Three encounter with the Boland Cavaliers in Wellington on Friday, said there is great excitement after a winning start to the season under new coach Robert du Preez.
Back-to-back bonus-point victories over the Pumas and Griquas have left the Sharks in a handy position in a shortened Currie Cup competition.
Some continuity from Super Rugby has contributed to their good form.
"Our motto for this season is Super Rugby standards for the Currie Cup," Lewies told the media gathering, adding that they would like to build on their Super Rugby performances.
"I think it's shown in our scrums and line-outs, both are functioning quite well," he added.
There is certainly some parallels to be drawn between the Sharks and the Lions, beaten Super Rugby finalists this year.
Three years ago the Johannesburg-based franchise was kicked out of Super Rugby and they started from scratch, building a team and a new culture.
"In a sense," Lewies said, when asked it they are in the same boat as the Lions were in 2013, adding: "Especially after last year $when we lost a lot of big names - like Bismarck [du Plessis], Jannie [du Plessis] and Willem [Alberts].
"They are big name players and added massive value to the Sharks.
"We have to go where the Lions were a few years ago when they started building from the ground up.
"There are a lot of young players here and that's exciting. We are looking forward to it - hopefully, we can get the same structures they did."
Despite their impressive start, the Sharks are aware that a lot can change in the remaining six rounds of the Currie Cup competition.
Lewies struck a cautionary note when he pointed out that they are still a work in progress.
"It's a process, it's not something that's going to be a success overnight," he said, adding: "But [coach] Robert du Preez urges us to improve every practice and every game.
"As long as there is constant improvement, he's happy. And the players like that."
Having spent most of last year on the sidelines following surgery for a ruptured his patella tendon, he has had an uninterrupted run this year.
"It's great to be on the park for a long time, that's how you improve and I've enjoyed myself," he said.
"After the injury last year, I thought I may have to call it a day. So every time I get onto the field, it's a true blessing."