The Cell C Sharks will look to end off an gruelling five week, four match Vodacom United Rugby Championship tour of Ireland, Scotland and Wales on a high this Saturday when they take on Cardiff Rugby at Cardiff Arms Park.
The Durban side would dearly love to finish the four match tour with back-to-back wins as they play successive matches against Welsh teams filled with internationals.
Although the touring party will head home after this match, they know there is one final challenge that lies ahead, but they’re in the right place to overcome it.
“Last week’s win did us good from a psychological point of view, the guys are in a good space, they’re really happy and excited for Saturday’s game to try finish off with two wins on tour,” Cell C Sharks head coach Sean Everitt explains.
“Last week’s victory certainly lifted morale and motivated the boys to get two out of four.”
Winning matches playing away from home first up was always going to be a big ask for the South African teams given quarantine protocols, travel restrictions, international quality opposition and fighting it out in a brand new competition. What would the Cell C Sharks be content with?
“We never set ourselves a goal for this tour but we had quietly, as coaches, spoken about coming home with between eight and 12 points.
“To get two wins under the belt… we’d call that a good tour. Going back to Super Rugby in the past and being away for four weeks, the third week was always challenging and we got a win in our third week. I think we’ll be bang on target if we get this win on Saturday night.”
As well as the Cell C Sharks played in their 27-13 victory over Ospreys last weekend, there is even further room for improvement as they showed, particularly in the second half.
“I guess that’s the beauty of it, we struggled with our game management in the first game against Munster and paid dearly for it, but it was totally different this time around. I thought our game management was outstanding and all credit to Ruan Pienaar and Boeta Chamberlain for the way they managed the game.
“Although we left a few opportunities out there on the field, we’ve worked hard on our accuracy and execution where we see room for improvement and hopefully that will come to the fore on Saturday night.”
Each week there have been changes to the starting line-up, reflective of injuries and rotation and this week there are a small number again, with captain Phepsi Buthelezi welcomed back after a well-earned break following his heavy work-load.
“What we wanted to do for team morale on a four week tour was to give as many guys an opportunity and we’ve been able to give 33 out of the 34 guys game time without weakening the team,” Everitt explains.
“The guys who came in last week were certainly motivated to do well to be in contention for selection for the last week. So Murray Koster who did very well against Munster unfortunately picked up an injury but now gets a second bite.
“Phepsi was rested last week and there were a couple of rotational changes and we have as much as possible tried to pick our best team this week without rotating. Unfortunately Yaw Penxe and Thaakir Abrahams are injured and Sanele Nohamba has had a family bereavement, so all three have returned home.”
Cardiff, like the Cell C Sharks, have one win under the belt after the first three rounds and again, both sides will be going all out for victory.
Saturday’s clash kicks off at 8.35pm.