Sharks attack coach Noel McNamara is scheming against his countrymen as part of the “excitement and intrigue” in Saturday’s clash against Connacht, reports DEVIN HERMANUS.
The former Leinster academy manager, who was also head coach of the Ireland U20s from 2018 to 2020, is in charge of the offence and backs for the Sharks, and Connacht aren’t underestimating his influence for Sean Everitt’s men.
Assistant coach Peter Wilkins said: “Noel would’ve known a lot of our lads, and Cullie [Connacht defence coach Cullie Tucker] worked with him before at age-group level and will test himself trying to unlock his attacking plans. It adds to the excitement and intrigue.
“When approaching teams with X-factor, it is important not to give those players any one-on-ones, and maintain those connections in defence … get numbers around the ball, and numbers around the attacker.”
“They got an electrifying back three with pace and power, and who can certainly tear teams apart,” Wilkins added. “[Yet] the Sharks are a powerful team built on a strong set piece, and will be more comfortable taking that route – when it hasn’t clicked on attack, they’ll look to their maul and kicking game.
“Not many teams have also managed sustained periods of attack against the Sharks. It’s an interesting challenge of the blend of structured and unstructured play.”
Connacht snapped a four-game winning run for the Lions at Ellis Park on Saturday, making it nine wins in as many matches against South African teams, while the Sharks moved into fourth on the Vodacom United Rugby Championship log following a win over Leinster.
Wilkins, who won a Super Rugby medal in 2011 as a performance analyst with the Reds, hopes the Durbanites’ playoff aspirations will serve as a distraction for this weekend’s encounter at Kings Park.
The Englishman said: “Definitely aware of the context, and the nice thing is the more opposition teams are under pressure [to qualify for the playoffs], the more it potentially plays to the opponents. But we want to get wins and finish the season strong.”