The Cell C Sharks will have their work cut out for them when they face a DHL Stormers side intent on finishing their season on a high when they play host for a mouth-watering coastal Vodacom Super Rugby derby on Saturday.
Head coach Robert du Preez made a couple of both rotational and injury-enforced changes to the line-up, but is no less focussed on achieving the team’s goals.
Beast Mtawarira’s workload is being managed, having played five weeks on the trot, but his replacement is no less highly rated. “Juan Schoeman was very good playing off the bench,” du Preez explained.
Losing Jean-Luc du Preez is a big loss, but as in Schoeman above, the coach is comfortable with his replacement.
“Losing any player in our squad is disappointing, but we have a more than able replacement in Jacques Vermeulen who did really well for us against the Emirates Lions when he came on. Hopefully Jean-Luc’s injury won’t keep him out for too long.”
One area of focus for the clash with the DHL Stormers is to avoid an issue that plagued the Cell C Sharks against the Emirates Lions, despite us coming out on top in that critical match.
“We didn’t have a lot of possession and sometimes it just goes that way, but we were very pleased with how we fought back,” du Preez explained. “Our defensive effort too was outstanding and something we will look to build on.”
Something else the coach will be hoping to see is the team’s fighting spirit, “The guys remained composed throughout, they never panicked and got back into the game before finishing it off. That was one of the most pleasing aspects.”
Commenting on Thomas du Toit achieving the distinction of representing the Cell C Sharks in a half century of Vodacom Super Rugby matches, the coach said, “Playing 50 games in this competition is a big milestone, for any player. But it will be business as usual for us, I don’t like making a big thing of these milestones. But he has been in great form lately and he knows we’re going to be up against a very good front row on Saturday so that’s where the focus is.”
Captain Ruan Botha warned that even if the DHL Stormers are out of contention for the play-offs, they will be like a cornered wild animal, desperate to fight their way out of trouble. Even if it is only for pride in front of a fanatical support base.
“Coming off a loss in Argentina last week means they will be even more dangerous at home this weekend,” he explained. “They’ll go out on Saturday with the freedom to express themselves and play as they want to. The set-piece battles upfront are going to be a huge challenge for the forwards.
“They’re going to be dangerous but we’re looking forward to the game and seeing what they bring.”
With last week’s game against the Emirates Lions billed as a must-win, the team is talking up this match in the same way. “We know that each game is a must-win and as individuals we can’t achieve that, but as a team and working together, we can. It’s something we got right against the Lions and we’ll be looking for that same team work against the DHL Stormers.”
The DHL Stormers might be coming off a loss, but it was away from home. They haven’t travelled as well as they have played at home where they’ve seen off the likes of the Bulls, Rebels, Reds, Blues and Jaguares.
“One thing the DHL Stormers thrive on is their support base, they get lots of energy from their home crowd and like any team, they enjoy playing at home. A big focus for us is to put them under pressure and hopefully have a good game.”