Philip van der Walt says the Sharks’ forwards must lead the ‘fightback’ when they take on the Stormers this Saturday, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
The Sharks’ failure to front up against the Bulls last weekend was candidly labelled as an ’embarrassment’ by coach Robert du Preez, while it has left their campaign in a particularly precarious position.
Another defeat for the Sharks – they have already lost five games from eight – would certainly cast real doubt over whether the Durban-based side can make up enough ground to reach the playoffs this season.
This Saturday, though, the Sharks will also be playing for pride as there have been increasing questions raised around whether this team has the mental and tactical acumen to perform under pressure.
As it is, there are some sceptics who have begun to suggest that the Sharks look worryingly one-dimensional when they fail to fire up front or battle to achieve momentum through big ball-carriers such as André Esterhuizen.
The Stormers will look to cast worry into the Sharks’ minds on Saturday by making a fast start and achieving ascendancy up front.
‘We know what is coming, especially after our poor performance against the Bulls pack,’ Van der Walt acknowledged ahead of the highly-anticipated derby in Durban.
‘We as forwards know we did not match up to them, so the Stormers will also use that confidence coming here from the Currie Cup final, knowing they can scrum us and drive us, but we just have to front up.’
It’s clear that the Sharks have struggled at scrum time in the absence of Beast Mtawarira – who was a late withdrawal once again last weekend – but Van der Walt called on the forwards to take responsibility as a collective.
‘It is up to us as forwards to start the fightback. It is up to us to lead – and not necessarily in what we say on the field, but really in our actions. When it really gets tough we have to get physical, to put our bodies on the line and ignite the guys around us.
‘That is where we failed a bit over this last game against the Bulls. It is definitely going to be a tough game this weekend, they will bring the same game plan in the forwards as the Bulls did – to try and outpower us, so it will depend on the leadership in the forward pack.’
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