The word out of both camps is not emotionally driven, it seems, in fact, to be much more concentrated on the log jam that has developed in the African Conference
Both the Sharks and the Bulls have been coy in talking about the humbling the former got on their home pitch, 40-10, a few weeks ago heading into this rematch clash. The Sharks, to their own admission, were probably at their worst, and now have a chance at redemption, while the Bulls are also coming off a loss against the Stormers and needing to bounce back.
However, the word out of both camps is not emotionally driven, it seems, in fact, to be much more concentrated on the log jam that has developed in the African Conference.
The Lions are comfortably at the top, with 31 points, but the feeling is their position is not secured after a dour performance against the Hurricanes last weekend and a general up and down season. The Jaguares surprise by being in second, with 24 points, having won all four of their tour games to Australia and New Zealand. Then comes the Sharks, Stormers, and Bulls, all within three points of each other.
Because the season is starting its down run to the knockout stages, all the emotion that might be associated with a big Pretoria-Durban derby seems to have been put to one side. Points are points at this stage, and this is confirmed by both coach Robert du Preez, as well as scrumhalf Louis Schrueder.
“Last time round, it was very disappointing getting 40 on our home ground; we know what happened, and we know what we need to work on, but I don’t think it is a redemption thing for us. We need to win every game now, and every game is as important as the next one now,” the one-capped Bok scrumhalf explained.
His coach reiterated the point, saying that winning has become all important and even though the Sharks put on an impressive and convincing performance against the Highlanders, they will take any victory that comes their way going forward.
“Having a performance like we did last week, that helps (heading into this game), and we want to play good rugby, but winning is everything and we don’t care how we win, it is the most important thing for us going forward now,” the coach said.
Du Preez added that although the Bulls game was black mark on their season, it is not something to get hung up on. In the same breath, they also cannot expect their performance against the Highlanders to carry them for the rest of the season.
“The Bulls game was a few weeks ago, so I think we have moved on from that now,” Du Preez said. “In Super Rugby, you cannot linger too long on a bad performance, or a good performance for that matter, you have to take the best out of both and move on.”
However, up country, the impressive performance against the Highlanders is still being widely spoken of around the water cooler at Loftus as the Bulls give credit to the Sharks for what they did.
The Pretoria outfit dominated the same opposition but were squeezed out of the game in the 81st minute in a disappointing loss.
“The Sharks have shown how good they can be in dismantling the Highlanders and will come for us, no doubt,” said Bulls coach, John Mitchell.
He also added that, like the Sharks, they are chasing wins for what he calls a ‘long-term strategy’.
“We all know what is at stake here. We all understand the long-term vision and strategy, but short-term results are as important,” Mitchell said.