Venter: Sharks will bounce back

Sharks flank James Venter says the team has taken their pre-season loss to the Vodacom Bulls in their stride and wants to bounce back this weekend against the Lions.

The Sharks were handed a 49-28 loss at the hands of the Bulls in the first game post-lockdown during Super Fan Saturday a couple of weeks ago.

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Sean Everitt’s side looked understandably rusty and could not match their opponents’ intensity in the first half as they conceded five tries and trailed 35-7 at the break.

Despite the nature of the match, it was a result that would have come as a surprise to Sharks fans, especially as the team was comfortably the best South African team before the regular Super Rugby season was halted back in mid-March.

The Sharks have an opportunity to put the record straight on Friday as they host the Lions in the opening match of South Africa’s domestic Super Rugby tournament.

Venter, who missed the Bulls match with a concussion, told the media on Tuesday the team had no issues with putting the result of that match behind them.

‘The camp is really excited. We knew going into the Bulls’ match that it was just a warm-up game,’ Venter said. ‘We took that in our stride. Our week was just based on pre-season and still prepping for the Lions.

‘We learned a lot from that game. But we have bounced back. The guys have trained hard and the vibe has been great. We are really excited to get back into Super Rugby Unlocked.’

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Venter identified the Sharks’ sluggish intensity in the first half as one of the key reasons for their heavy defeat, but added there were pleasing aspects from the game as they worked their way back into the contest in the second half.

‘You learn that rugby is an 80-minute game so if you start a bit slow, it is really difficult to catch up. We thrive on that intensity. As the game went on, the boys got more into the mix. The more comfortable they got, the better they started playing. It is just about starting off well.’

As a former Lions player, Venter will be well aware of the threat posed by opposition captain Elton Jantjies this weekend. Jantjies has been in superb form since the restart and is coming off a fine performance in the Springbok Showdown.

‘We as a squad have looked at the Lions squad in depth. Obviously, Elton is their leader and being their flyhalf, he controls the game,’ Venter said. ‘For us, it’s about identifying that and knowing that is where a lot of their strengths lie. We have been formulating processes and methods to maybe nullify him or just control his abilities.’

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Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images

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