Match Preview

A lot rides on the outcome of the Cell C Sharks final tour match against the Reds in Brisbane on Saturday morning, but this Vodacom Super Rugby clash is about so much more than just the result.

Of course the primary aim of a competition is winning, but it’s how you get there and for a Cell C Sharks side that drives consistency in a performance-based environment, the gains made last week will only serve to benefit the side.

“The improvement in our set-piece last week meant we were able to bring the penalty count against us down and the guys were really good defensively,” explained head coach Sean Everitt.

The Reds have a highly rated pack and both Thomas du Toit and Ox Nche will be once again called upon to deliver powerful performances up front. But not only the starters, those who come in later in the game have a responsibility to not only up the tempo and energy levels, but to produce strong performances that keep the pressure up.

“They’re Springboks so they do make a difference, but in saying that, the guys who came on later did a good job in the scrums as well. When John-Hubert Meyer, Craig Burden, Mzamo Majola and Le Roux Roets came on, we also won a scrum penalty on the halfway line which was really important.

“As a unit, the forwards have improved and those problems we said we could fix, we have.”

But it isn’t only at scrum time where the forwards need to be making a statement, but also in open play and one person who does this week after week is a new face in the side.

“Sikhumbuzo Notshe has been outstanding,” Everitt admitted. “He’s a number eight that links well with forwards and backs, he has tremendous skill and is one of our most dominant carriers with a good offloading game. We’re very happy with the contribution he makes to the team and he’s been a very good signing for the Cell C Sharks.”

Last week, he should have scored his hat-trick try, but Makazole Mapimpi generously waited for Curwin Bosch and handed him the honours on the occasion of his 50th appearance for the Cell C Sharks.

This kind of unselfish behaviour is the hallmark of what makes a team special.

“It’s very important that there is unity in a team because that synergy makes good teams. The guys have got on really well on tour and it’s something I wanted, to build team spirit. The guys are playing for each other, you can see that from week to week and I think the consistency in performances shows that. But wow, for Makazole to give up that try to Curwin is something special.”

Turning to the Reds, Everitt warned that this is a side that deserves a huge amount of respect but that, “the guys are good to go!

“The Reds are a dangerous team with a formidable tight five that has scrummed really well and given their opponents a tough time. They also have James O’Connor flourishing at flyhalf and they’re scoring tries with Henry Speight, signed from the Brumbies, a real menace on attack.

“We’ll need to be sharp and good defensively to keep them out.”

Having won two out of three games on tour, the Cell C Sharks could make it a 75% success rate if they taste victory on Saturday, which would be a hugely rewarding month, not only with regard to log points but also for team morale.

“The guys are really motivated to make it three out of four, not many teams come away from these Australasian tours winning three games, let alone two, so we know that if we put a good performance in against the Reds and get the result then we should attract a good crowd when we’re back in Durban – that’s our aim. We want people to be proud of the Sharks and if we perform against the Reds then hopefully we will get good support when we play the Jaguares in Durban next week.”