Sharks looking to go into semis on high

Sharks flyhalf Curwin Bosch says Saturday’s crunch match against Western Province at Newlands will provide an opportunity to rectify their away form. DYLAN JACK reports.

The Sharks go into their final round-robin match against Province on the back of a morale-boosting bonus-point victory over Griquas in Durban.

That result not only secured the Sharks their place in the Currie Cup semi-finals, but also ended a run of two successive losses to the Lions and Cheetahs, which had put in doubt the team’s chance of making it into the playoffs.

When comparing those two games, played in Johannesburg and Bloemfontein, to the most recent in Durban, it is an illustration of the Jekyll and Hyde character that has personified the Sharks ever since domestic action resumed last year.

In the early stages of the 2020 Super Rugby season, the Sharks seemed to have no issue with performing away from home as they won three out of their four tour games. However, this appears to have become a problem, particularly when playing at altitude as the Sharks have dropped points in Pretoria, Johannesburg and Bloemfontein, while they put in an error-filled performance and were arguably fortunate to have come away with a win against Griquas in Kimberley.

This is strange when one considers that the Sharks went through 2020 unbeaten at home and that included beating the Vodacom Bulls, Lions and Cheetahs at Kings Park.

Speaking ahead of their match against Province in an online media conference on Tuesday, Bosch was honest about the Sharks’ failings away from home.

‘I think it must be said, there are no excuses for us putting in performances like we did against the Cheetahs and Lions,’ Bosch said. ‘That’s was just below par from all of us, myself included. We spoke last year when we got together for the first time that we wanted to make Kings Park a fortress. One of our goals was to be unbeaten at home in 2020 and we achieved that goal. Now it’s just for us to have the consistency to put up the same kind of performances and energy for away games.

‘We have spoken about and we are aware that we are not as good as we should be away from home, so we are looking to rectify that this weekend.’

Bosch added that the Sharks are perhaps closer to reclaiming their dominant form of early 2020 than what most think.

‘If you look at the games in-depth, like we do after a game, and you look at our performances where things haven’t really gone well, there weren’t a lot of big things that we were doing wrong,’ Bosch explained.

‘Maybe it just came down to some individual errors, a decision-making error that we made, so it’s really small things that we were missing in the games that we fell short. If you make those errors against teams like the Lions and Cheetahs, they will put you away. It wasn’t really a big concern for us. Our plan still works and we can see that if we execute our plan, we are creating a lot of opportunities to score tries. It comes down to individual decision-making and, at the end of the day, that’s what cost us in those two games.

‘It is a massive week for us, but it is a challenge we are looking forward to,’ the flyhalf added. ‘Last week, we showed a bit of what we can do when we actually stick to our gameplan and we start playing as a team. So, we are really looking forward to the challenge that lies ahead and building some momentum going into the semi-final.’

Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images

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Dylan Jack