The Cell C Sharks travel to Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit to take on a dangerous Pumas side in our return leg Currie Cup clash later today, seeking a performance of the standard that we have become accustomed to.
This match presents the opportunity to both strengthen our position on the top of the log as well as to extend our run of wins to seven matches on the trot. But the Pumas are no easy-beats and coach Robert du Preez has warned that this may well be one of the hardest matches the Cell C Sharks will face to date.
“I think this will be our toughest game in the Currie Cup this season,” he admitted. “They have a very abrasive pack of forwards and we’ll have to deal with that; and in Nelspruit. We’re going to have to be really mentally up for it.
“But I’m sure the boys will be, we’ve had a good week of preparation.”
Du Preez hinted at having the right mindset in this game which is something that our team had to prepare for last week against a vastly understrength Free State side, missing a full squad involved in the Pro 14 competition overseas.
“We didn’t want to disrespect them, but they put up a heck of a fight and it was a really tough game in which we had to work for every point. There were quite a few missed opportunities in that game and we really, really have to get that right for this match.”
A 29-0 first round victory at Growthpoint KINGS PARK counts for something because it delivered a bonus point win and we denied them any points which was testimony to some outstanding defence. But that match also counts for nothing in the grand scheme of tonight’s second round game. The past is in the past.
Consistent team selections each week have helped with continuity and this week there are just a few changes, one of which is the return of Curwin Bosch who has been away with the Springboks, but was released back to the Cell C Sharks.
Du Preez felt that his time with the Boks was a huge positive for the young player who until recently, was still in school.
“That exposure at the Bok camp has given him a lot of confidence, I think we underestimate how much it actually means to a guy going to the Bok set-up. When they come back, you can see.”
Although this is a young Cell C Sharks side, there’s a sense that this is a team that has benefitted from being together for a fairly protracted period now, as evidenced by our log leading status.
“This takes a lot of time,” admitted du Preez. “Players need to get used to how I see things, and vice versa, which doesn’t happen overnight. We have a fantastic bunch of guys and I think we’re onto something really special here.
“If we keep this squad together over the next three years, I think we will see some really good things, especially from the youngsters. I’ve had no hesitation in exposing those youngsters to game time, they’re a talented bunch of players.
“Having said that, we haven’t won anything yet, it’s one game at a time. Our focus is purely on the Pumas right now.”