In professional rugby, there is a much more clinical way of going about things. Sticking to processes, focusing on one’s own game and doing the basics right are clichés that hold true in the modern era.
But, every now and then a game conjures up some old school raw emotion and there is more at stake than a simple haul of points. This upcoming rematch for the Sharks seems to be dripping with such sentiment.
“We’ve got a bone to pick with them definitely,” said Jacques Vermeulen, the Sharks’ no-nonsense flanker.
Three weeks ago the Sharks were hung out to dry against the rampaging Bulls who tore the visitors apart 37-14. It was a game where the Sharks’ reputation as being a physical side was put to the test, and they failed. However, that also served as a wake-up call for the men from Durban who have not had to wait long to try and get their revenge.
“We know how the feeling was in the change room after that game against the Bulls,” the 24-year-old said. “There was a lot of disappointment and frustration, and we would very much like to change that.”
Vermeulen says that frustration came at Loftus because they could not get out of their half. It was the marauding Bulls forwards as well as their general at flyhalf, Handré Pollard, who kept the Durbanites pinned down.
“Territory is going to be a massive part of this week’s game,” he said before pointing out that this did not mean the Sharks are focusing primarily on kicking for field position.
“Probably the strongest part of our game is how dangerous we become when we keep the ball. It is so important this week to get into the right positions on the field and then keep the ball.
“The victory over the Rebels has brought the confidence right back into the camp after those two derby losses to the Stormers and the Bulls,” Vermeulen said. “After the bye week we put the emphasis on getting physical against the Rebels, especially after we got a 50-point beating from them in Melbourne last year, and then in the second half our game came together nicely, with forwards and backs combining well. We left everything out on the park in the second half. That is how we want to play against the Bulls.”
The Bulls will be desperate to bounce back, but the Sharks will be aching to set the record straight.
It should all build to quite a crescendo at the Shark Tank this weekend. – Darryn Pollock