The Cell C Sharks host the Xerox Golden Lions at JONSSON KINGS PARK on Saturday in what is shaping up to be the start of a season-defining fortnight and a must-win game for both sides.
After their shock defeat to Western Province at home last week, the Lions will come to Durban intent on turning things around and proving that the defeat was a flash in the pan.
For the Cell C Sharks, this is an opportunity to play the kind of rugby the team wants to, one where patience is the name of the game and opportunities created are finished off.
Head coach Robert du Preez has the pleasure of welcoming back some high-profile players, Thomas du Toit from the Springboks and Coenie Oosthuizen, Jacques Vermeulen and rising star Sbu Nkosi all returning from injury lay-offs.
Their return couldn’t have come at a better time as the Cell C Sharks play the Lions and then Western Province in consecutively tough derby matches.
“It’s great to have guys like Thomas back, although it’s tough for the players losing out this week,” said du Preez. “It’s also wonderful having Coenie back, he’s been chomping at the bit for a while now. He’s eager and excited to play.”
The Cell C Sharks had a break last week as they took their second bye and now return to action with the hope that there’s no disruption in momentum.
“We’re in the business end of the competition now, the next two weeks are going to be massive for us, this one against the Lions especially as they are coming back from a big loss against Western Province and we’re expecting a backlash from them.
“We’ve had a good week of training, the boys are energised and ready to go.”
A common theme in feedback recently has been about the team’s patience on attack and the desire to remove impatience. This is generally a very young side and with that comes the exuberance of youth. The plus is the energy they bring but the trick is to temper that excitement with a sense of calm.
“A big focus for us is our patience and to be more accurate when we do have the ball in hand,” the coach explained. “We’ve given away too many turnovers in the last couple of games so that’s been something we’ve tried to work on resolving.
“We’re creating a lot of opportunities; if we hold on to the ball, we’ll be exciting.”
The positive about the big game last weekend between the Golden Lions who went down 65-38 to Western Province, is that we play both teams on successive weekends, giving insights into what the team can expect.
“Province were ruthless in their execution, particularly on turnovers that the Lions gave them, but we know what the Lions are capable of, they’re a team that also scores a lot of tries and they’re unpredictable.
“We’re going to have to be on our toes to deal with that. They have x-factor players and plenty of Springboks.
“But I’m very excited about our team, a guy like Thomas returning from the Springboks after their win over the All Blacks brings a huge amount of energy to our team. I’m also excited about the guys who have come back from injury, like Sbu Nkosi, Jacques Vermeulen and obviously Coenie.”