Sharks director of rugby Gary Gold believes Saturday's clash against the Hurricanes will be the greatest challenge of their season to date, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
The Sharks have faced a challenging draw this season, which has seen them recently return from a three-week tour to New Zealand where they played the Blues, Highlanders and Chiefs. Before heading overseas, they were also sternly tested by the Jaguares, Stormers, Bulls and Lions.
Unsurprisingly then, the Sharks’ results have been a mixed bag this season, as illustrated by their four wins, four losses and a draw. They’re now set to face a Hurricanes side that has won six out of their last seven games, the highlight of which was their 50-17 thrashing of the Lions at Ellis Park last weekend.
It’s with this in mind that Gold said he knew the Sharks were set for another serious examination of their all-round ability.
‘We’ve already played four New Zealand sides this season, and I hope we have an understanding of how they play, but they’re all world-class teams. I think the divide between all the New Zealand sides has grown a lot closer. But I’ve said I think this is going to be our biggest challenge just in terms of the confidence the Hurricanes will have after winning by 50 points. Both coaches [Chris Boyd and John Plumtree] are comfortable in Durban and know our ways, structures and players. So, I think this will be our toughest task, and it’s a team that we’ll have a massive amount of respect for.’
The Sharks’ only win over a Kiwi opponent this season came against the Highlanders, but they did manage to secure a losing bonus point in all three other clashes. It’s clear that the Sharks have begun to find a better balance to their game enabling them to be competitive against the front-running New Zealand sides, but Gold said they were desperate to bank another win back at home.
‘We don’t want to come away from playing the five New Zealand teams and only have one victory to show for it. There can be no excuses, we need to raise our game and we really want to perform in front of our home crowd.’
Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images