Sharks coach Sean Everitt has keenly emphasised the impact returning players will have on his team as they take on the Vodacom Bulls in Durban this weekend.
The Sharks have struggled for consistency this season after having been hit by a string of injuries. Speaking to the media on Thursday, though, Everitt said the Sharks’ recent bye week has ‘helped us in terms of getting players back on the field’.
One such player is irrepressible captain Lukhanyo Am, whose presence back in the starting lineup Everitt feels will ‘inspire’ and ‘motivate’ the team. Also returning are Henco Venter and Sikhumbuzo Notshe, who bring a wealth of experience to the pack.
Though Everitt was quick to praise youngster Phepsi Buthelezi and Thembelani Bholi on what he called ‘admirable’ performances – he made it clear that the returning players would effect ‘a big improvement’.
On the Sharks’ performances to date, Everitt said his side was finding ways to win despite the adversity suffered on account of injuries:
‘We haven’t been consistent. We’ve performed well in stages of games but we’re yet to put together an 80-minute performance – that’s something we’re striving for and we’ve discussed.’
The Sharks will need to be on their game when they face the table-topping Bulls this weekend and it’s something Everitt is fully aware of. Of particular interest will be the battle up front where the Bulls got the better of the Sharks when they last met in Super Rugby Unlocked.
‘We’ve worked hard on our set piece, with Thomas and Ox in the front row it brings strength in that area.’
Everitt also singled out two opposition players he feels are in red-hot form: ‘Ivan van Zyl is playing probably the best rugby he’s played since he became a Bok, and Marco van Staden, who’s obviously stolen a lot of the ball on the floor.’
There’s a sense that if the Sharks can quell the Bulls’ star players then they will be in with a good chance of winning. With the Sharks unbeaten this year in Durban, one thing Everitt feels is counting in their favour is the home-ground advantage.
Of the (in)famous Durban humidity, Everitt said ‘we experience these conditions on a daily basis, so hopefully we’ll have the upper hand as far as that’s concerned’.
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