Rugby | Sharks on test match footing

Gavin Rich,

Durban – The Sharks have been primed by their management group to approach Saturday’s opening home Vodacom Super Rugby match of the season as if it was a test match and they will play the style that is suitable for that level of rugby.

Sharks director of rugby Gary Gold said on Thursday that they were going to treat the Jaguares as if they were the Argentina national side.

“We want to manage the game as if we were playing against Argentina, which is pretty much what the Jaguares bring,” said Gold.

“We know how dangerous the Pumas are, and ironically they’ve been very good on this very field (in recording an historic win against the Springboks here last year). So we have to manage the game correctly and that means we have to play our rugby in the right areas of the field, and we can’t allow them to camp in our 22. If we do that, as sure as nuts the dam wall will break.

“We have to go out there and ensure we are masters of our own destiny and be very clinical in everything we do. The Jaguares have 10 to 12 guys who were in a side that made the semifinals of the World Cup last year. They are the real deal and will play against us with real test match intensity. They have a great spine to their team starting at their skipper Augustin Creevy and including the halfbacks.

“These days we also know that the Argentine intent is to come out and play. They will be ferocious at the breakdown, if not always that legal there. It will be a tough day at the office and we are going to have to be very patient and switched on or before we know it Creevy or their openside would have stolen the ball from us.”

Gold said that when he spoke about his team needing to see the game as a test match it meant that the players had to understand that they couldn’t gift their opponents easy possession and would have to guard their own possession carefully.

“We have to prize the ball and hold onto it when we have it, and we have to be accurate and physical on defence. If we are to be honest with ourselves, we will realise that last week’s defensive effort against the Southern Kings won’t be good enough against these guys. That’s why I refer to what we are going to play as a test rugby approach. We have to be careful about what type of ball we give them, and must beware against playing in the wrong areas of the field.”

Having said all that, however, Gold made it clear that he wasn’t suggesting Kings Park patrons could expect a dreary kicking contest.

“We scored six tries against French teams when we were on tour before the season started and we scored six tries against the Kings last week so I think we can ask questions of them as well. It’s going to be a fun game of chess on Saturday,” he said.

Gold said the importance of the game, the quality of the opposition and the type of game he intended his team to play had played a role in his decision to select two Springboks straight into the starting team this week after a period of inactivity.

“We are going to need experience and JP Pietersen and Stephan Lewies provide that. S’bura Sithole was good off the bench for us last week and is probably due a start but JP has experience and, to be completely honest with you, I am also not sure what he would offer if he had to come on as an impact player,” said Gold.

“Hyron Andrews has done well this season and made his first start last week, but he is a young player who is still learning. We lost four balls in the lineouts in Port Elizabeth and we cannot afford that against the Jaguares.”

The Sharks mentor said the fact that the Jaguares were in the same group as his men added considerable significance to the game.

“They are one of the three other teams that will be competing with us to get automatic entry into the play-offs by topping the group, so obviously this game is a bit more important than some of the others,” said Gold.

“But more than that, over the years the Sharks have boasted a good record at home, and we need to get back to that. We need to start making a habit of winning at home again and start getting opposing teams to fear coming here. So it is important in a lot of contexts. We also want to get a bit of traction. If you count our two wins in the warm-up phase, we’ve won three in a row. We want to keep that momentum going.”

The recall of the two Boks, Lewies and Pietersen, were the only two changes to the side that beat the Kings 43-8 in Port Elizabeth last weekend.

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