Sharks captain Lukhanyo Am believes it’s only a matter of time before his team regain their pre-lockdown form and momentum to kickstart their Super Rugby Unlocked campaign.
Fresh of a humiliating 41-14 defeat by the Vodacom Bulls at Loftus this past weekend, the Sharks are now preparing for an away clash with the enterprising and highly entertaining Pumas at the Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit.
On whether the loss against the Bulls effected the Sharks’ confidence levels, Am said: ‘It’s always tough playing at Loftus, but I don’t think it bruised our confidence that much. We know what happened and what went wrong and this week we’ll try to rectify that.
‘We’re working hard on our game model. It’s just that we struggled to execute it against the Bulls. But it’s too early for us to be thinking of changing or questioning how we play. We’ve seen it work before and we’re backing our game model. Going into this weekend, there shouldn’t be many changes, only slight tactical adjustments because of the opposition we’re facing. We’ll try to continue the style of rugby we’ve been playing.’
During the Vodacom Super Rugby season, the Sharks were the in-form team and sat nicely atop the overall log before the national lockdown was imposed. However, they’ve struggled to replicate that form in the early stages of Super Rugby Unlocked, especially since there was no proper pre-season after the lockdown was lifted. But Am is adamant that is not the reason for their difficulties.
‘I don’t think that’s the main reason. All the unions in South Africa went through the same phase during lockdown, in terms of preparation. It’s just that maybe for us, losing momentum like playing the first game, then having a bye early on in the season, was a hindrance. Going into this game and then playing a consecutive game the week after, I think the momentum and continuity will be much better,’ he explained.
‘It’s matter of us just clicking. Unfortunately we made a lot of handling errors and struggled at the set piece against the Bulls and maybe that might be influenced by rustiness, but the personnel we have is the majority that we had in Super Rugby, so we should click anytime now.’
With the Pumas playing the way they are – they beat Griquas and narrowly lost to the Stormers – Am is weary of the threat they pose especially on their home ground.
‘Historically, whenever we’ve played against the Pumas it’s always been a close game. Coming from a loss and going to Mbombela, we know it’s going to be a tough outing. We’re geared up and ready and prepared for them.
‘The Pumas have got a balanced team and with their style of play, they’ve got a lot of energy with ball in hand. Playing them at their home it going to be interesting, but we’ve analysed them and tried to see trends in their play and we’ll take it from there.
‘The Pumas have just been unfortunate with their results, we’ve all seen their style of play and how they play as a team. They are a confident side, that like to run the ball but they’re also solid on D [defence]. Going there it’s going to be us versus their plan and hopefully we’ll come out on top.’
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