The Cell C Sharks will welcome the Chiefs to JONSSON KINGS PARK for our Vodacom Super Rugby clash this Saturday well-aware of the importance riding on the outcome of this match.
There are various factors at play coming into this crucial match.
After a narrow loss to the Bulls last week which followed a wonderfully exciting victory over the Highlanders, the team are only too aware that another loss will put pressure on our tournament ambitions.
On the contrary though is the fact that we have a good record against New Zealand teams, having won twice and lost a close game against the Hurricanes.
The big talking point is the fact that the Chiefs will be without a number of their players for this match, missing All Black possibles Nathan Harris, Brodie Retallick, Damian McKenzie and Anton Lienert-Brown who have all been called up to attend a national camp.
Together with a frightening injury toll this season, the Chiefs are without more than half of their originally 2018 contracted players for this match. As many as 20 player are missing while the touring group includes 11 players who were originally not even contracted for this season.
According to Cell C Sharks flyhalf Robert du Preez however, this should not lull his team into a sense of false security.
“This doesn’t change anything,” he admits emphatically. “New Zealand teams can put out sides with zero Super Rugby caps and they’ll still be sharp, they continue to churn out good players. We can’t afford to take this game lightly. We have a job to do, so it’s more about us than the team they put out, whether it’s full strength or second or third choice.
“We need to make sure we do enough to make our home crowd happy this weekend. We really need five points out of this game and if we do, that could kick-start our campaign again and hopefully pick up more points on the road against the Jaguares next week.”
Head Coach Robert du Preez is in total agreement, adding: “We’ve spoken about that, we know that whatever team they put on the field will be a good, New Zealand team, and we will give them the respect they deserve.”
With the logjam on the South African Conference that sees teams two through five separated by just one point, there is always the argument for chasing bonus points vs wining at all costs. “Winning comes first and if there’s a bonus point, then that will be great, but that’s not the main focus for us,” du Preez explains. “It certainly wouldn’t change the way we play.”
One area that let us down last week was discipline and two yellow cards, one in each half, saw us conceding 15 points during the 20 minutes that we were down to 14 men.
“It’s always top of our focus and will be again this weekend. We only conceded five penalties but there were two yellow cards and that counts for a lot.”
Despite last week’s loss, spirits are high in the Cell C Sharks camp as the players look to once again lifting themselves for a New Zealand team.
“We’ve had a very good week of training. We have two games left before the June break, so there’s a great spirit and energy in the team. I can say that there is a good vibe and the boys are keen to get out there and really rectify last week’s performance.”