Rugby news from KwaZulu-Natal:
Big Challenge Looms:
The Cell C Sharks have enjoyed a week’s break following the second and final bye as the team now look to close out the final stages of the regular season looking to secure a place in the knockouts.
We will host the Emirates Lions at JONSSON KINGS PARK this Saturday in the final month of the pool stages but will be without the services of a few players who have minor niggles that will keep them out of action for the next week or two.
Team doctor, Dr Gerhard Coetzer, has confirmed that front rowers Akker van der Merwe (shoulder injury), Beast Mtawarira (MCL injury – Left knee) and Craig Burden (Left bicep tear) as well as wing Lwazi Mvovo (ankle sprain) will return to play in approximately two weeks, while prop Thomas du Toit (also ankle sprain) is doubtful for this match.
The previous encounter between the sides resulted in a 42-5 victory at Emirates Airlines Park in as close to a complete performance as the Cell C Sharks have delivered in some time and while the chances of the Lions getting caught out again like that are slim, there is every reason to aim for a similarly commanding performance.
Cell C Sharks assistant coach Ricardo Loubscher admits that the Lions pose a serious challenge, but one the team is up for.
“We know it’s going to be tough against a quality side that loves playing attacking rugby,” he says.
“We expect a physical match, South African derbies always are, but the players are in a good space and took some nice momentum from the tour. We’ll be looking to take that momentum into the next four games.”
The Cell C Sharks are in a good place and will look to combine the energy in the team from the return to action to the good work done on tour – both on and off the field.
“Like us, the Lions will be preparing as well as they can for this game but we will also be looking to build on the momentum we gained out of the tour, there’s a good spirit within the team and the players came back from the bye with lots of energy. The vibe in the camp is great at the moment.”
The Lions had to work hard, but eventually saw off the visiting Highlanders on the weekend, a 38-29 victory securing a hard-earned result and a warning that they are a competitive side.
“There were a lot of points scored in that match, we know that’s how they prefer to play, so we expect them to come to Durban with that same attacking DNA,” Loubscher explains. “Both teams love to play ball-in-hand rugby and it’s about who is clinical on the day, who takes their opportunities. But it’s going to take an 80-minute effort from us
“From our side, it’s all about making sure we prepare and prepare well. Our focus is to bring lots of energy to this week’s preparations.”
Both teams come into this game in a good headspace and confidence. The Cell C Sharks had a good tour while the Lions have won their last two matches which bodes well for the makings of an exciting clash between the two foes.
“I think it’s going to be an exciting challenge, the players and coaching staff can’t wait for Saturday.”
With four games remaining (two home and two away) in a tightly contested South African Conference, there are just six points separating the five teams and no clear favourite to win the conference.
“Right now we don’t see this as a must-win time in our campaign, it’s really about enjoyment, about going out there and playing for your team-mates and the guy next to you.
“It’s going to come down to the bounce of the ball – hopefully in our favour – and we know it’s going to be tough. It’s also about taking your opportunities.”