The Cell C Sharks head into the Vodacom Super Rugby derby clash with the Vodacom Bulls at Loftus on Saturday with equal measures of confidence and determination for this second round match.
Confidence because of recent results – victories over the DHL Stormers then Highlanders – but also great determination, not only to win, but to maintain a healthy fight in the final stages of the regular season before the knock-out rounds.
Head coach Robert du Preez admitted as much this week when looking at the congestion on the log table, certainly within the South African Conference.
“If we have a performance like we had last week, that will help our ambitions, but in general, we want to play good rugby, but we don’t care how we win, that’s the crucial thing,” he said. “Every game from now on is just as important as every other going forward.”Holding our nerve in this closing period of the pool stages, when any team in our conference can finish top, is going to be vital.
“It’s game by game, every match has to be treated as a final, every game is important and we want to win every game now, That will help us to get into a good position [on the log] and into the finals.”
Playing teams within the South African Conference takes on added pressure – and reward for the victory – because of the immense value a win will give. It’s almost like double points to get four or five for the victory and then restrict the opposition where possible.
“That pressure is massive, the quality of the competition is so much better than last year and there are no easy games. Who would have expected the Jaguares to win every game on tour in Australasia?
“Anything can happen on the day and you have to be on top of your game, every game.” As far as the complexion of the team goes, du Preez made just one enforced change to the team that performed so admirably against the Highlanders last week.
“It’s great to have that continuity, although to lose a guy like Philip van der Walt with the way he plays and his leadership is a big loss. But we have a great guy in Jacques Vermeulen and we know he will give everything.”
As far as taking lessons from the previous , first round clash between the two sides at JONSSON KINGS PARK, the coach admitted that it was all in the past, with a new focus ahead.
“That’s been a few weeks and we’ve moved on from that. In Super Rugby you can’t linger too long on from a bad performance, or a good performance for that matter. You have to take the best from both and move on.”
With the Vodacom Bulls looking to bounce back from their loss to the DHL Stormers on the weekend, this game is expected to be physical and hard-fought which means keeping cool heads at all times – or face the consequences.
“Discipline is probably one of the biggest things in these derbies, you can’t concede silly penalties and especially cards; you just put pressure on the team when you concede yellow cards,” the coach admitted. “Discipline is going to be a massive aspect of this game.
“The other important focus will be the scrums. The scrum performance last week between the Vodacom Bulls and DHL Stormers was a real mess, the scrums were unstable and hopefully that will be sorted out on Saturday. We want to make sure we are within the rules of the set-pieces – scrums and lineouts.”
For scrumhalf Louis Schreuder, there is no talk of revenge at the first round loss, but certainly motivation enough to avoid a reoccurrence.
“Last time around was very disappointing getting 40 on our home ground, but we know what went wrong and what we had to work on,” he admitted. “But this match is not about redemption, we need to win every game, none are personal and every game is just as important as the next one.”
As the link man between backs and forwards, he is ideally placed to observe how the two sectors of the team have performed this season.
“That old saying remains true: if the forwards are going well then the backline flows as well. Some of our games haven’t been the best, others have been better and then we did well the last two games. With the team and players we have, if we stick with what we want to do, we’ll do well.”