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Sharks pack has real bite

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“We need to keep building on that as we know there is another big challenge waiting for us in the form of the Stormers.”

WITH the Stormers and their formidable pack next in line for the sizzling Sharks, a dramatic improvement in the Durban-based team’s set-piece play and contestable kicking in their last two games is timeous indeed.

The Sharks have notably upped their game in these departments over the last fortnight in their fine wins over the Reds and Jaguares, and the KwaZulu-Natal team is increasingly looking like the full Super Rugby package.

The Sharks’ set piece was poor in rounds one to four, but not any more.

“The progression of our set-piece play has been really pleasing,” said coach Sean Everitt. “We were getting criticised for not being up to it from a set-piece viewpoint. We know as coaches that the set-piece is always a big part of performance, and if you don’t have that you can’t expect to keep winning. So we’ve been putting in a lot of hard work and it has been pleasing to see the guys getting it together. As you would have seen in this game (against the Jaguares), there has been a massive improvement.

“We scored a maul try and we did very well in stopping their maul. We had to do it many, many times, as from 50 percent of their line-outs they drove and they mauled. That takes a lot out of you from a fatigue perspective.

“We need to keep building on that as we know there is another big challenge waiting for us in the form of the Stormers.”

The Stormers pack remains a powerful unit, the injury-enforced loss of will Pieter-Steph du Toit, Bongi Mbonambi and Siya Kolisi notwithstanding, but the Sharks will not fear them and will be confident they can supply their deadly backline with sufficient possession to win the game.

As improved as the set pieces were, the most outstanding feature of the Sharks’ 33-19 win against the Jaguares on Saturday was the accuracy of their kicking game, with halfbacks Louis Schreuder and Curwin Bosch pin-point in their aerial hoists and chasing wings Sbu Nkosi, Madosh Tambwe (when deputising while Nkosi had a head impact assessment) and Makazole Mapimpi were exceptional in their chasing and contesting in the air.

“Credit must go to Curwin and Louis for those box kicks, but don’t forget how we handled them out of the air. We turned them over with great aerial skills from the chasers,” Everitt said. “That was part of our plan, but we needed to execute and execute accurately and we did that, so credit must go to those players.”

At 33-12 at one stage, it looked like the Sharks would run away with proceedings, but exhaustion noticeably kicked in.

“There was definitely no lack of effort it was fatigue that caught us up in those last 20 minutes,” Everitt said.

“I have had experience (when an assistant coach to Jake White) of playing the Hurricanes once before in a similar situation (when we’d just come back from tour). We won that game too but the guys had to dig deep at the end, and we had to do that here too. Until you experience that trip back from Australia you have no idea of how much it takes out of you.

“It is not a direct flight back from Australia. You have to fly from Brisbane to Sydney first, and you have to wake up at 3am on the day of departure. I am incredibly proud of the guys.

“I said to them in the change-room after the game that this time last week we were in Brisbane; and we were in Jo’burg on Monday night because we missed our connecting flight.

“To put in a performance like that, with that sort of energy and enthusiasm, was just incredible.”