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Good or bad news for Sharks?

The Cell C Sharks are so good at saving their best for matches against New Zealand teams that sometimes you wonder if it might suit them better to be in the Kiwi conference, and they should fancy their chances of continuing the trend against a severely depleted Chiefs this week.

New Zealand media reports have confirmed what we were told by DHL Stormers assistant coach Paul Feeney last week – the Chiefs’ All Blacks have been recalled to New Zealand to attend a north island training camp.

The camp impacts on the Chiefs more than the other Kiwi franchises as they are the only north island team on tour at present.

The decision means that Brodie Retallick and Damian McKenzie, the two best Chiefs players in the gritty 15-9 win over the Stormers in Cape Town, won’t be at Kings Park on Saturday evening, and neither will their try scorer from that game, Anton Lienert-Brown, and Nathan Harris.

The problem for the Chiefs is that the withdrawal of those players comes on top of a host of players being unavailable through injury.

The big achievement for the Chiefs, who are currently fourth in the New Zealand conference, in beating the Stormers was that they did it with a severely depleted team – they were without influential players such Sam Kane and Kane Hames, Nepo Laulala and a host of others.

In fact, there are as many as 20 players missing from the Chiefs as they head into the Durban game if you list the injured players together with the missing All Blacks, and 11 members of their squad didn’t even have a Super Rugby contract at the start of the season.

That should all add up to good news for the Sharks, who were impressive in easily dispatching another Kiwi side, the Highlanders, 38-12 in their last outing at Jonnson Kings Park.

However, their coach Robert du Preez might not consider it such good news as the Sharks are notorious for their apparent tendency to suddenly relax and lose their intensity and hardness when you least expect them to, such as when they were blown away by the Bulls when they started as favourites in their first match back from an impressive sequence of performances in New Zealand.


The Sharks might be better served going into the Chiefs game with the same underdog approach they would have taken into their previous clashes this year with Kiwi opposition, and besides, the Chiefs showed against the Stormers that they possess a steely refusal to lose.

It might not help the Sharks that the Chiefs' resolve has been strengthened by the way their ranks have been depleted. This is considered a must win game for them if they want to have any say in their conference.

The Sharks returned to Durban at the weekend disappointed that they lost their return clash with the Bulls, but there were enough positives to the performance for Du Preez to remain upbeat about his team’s chances of topping the conference.

“It is still all to play for,” said Du Preez. “We have the makings of a great team.”

What he’d want to address though with his players is the indiscipline that contributed to them once again conceding early points and falling behind the Bulls in the first quarter.

In the end they did well to come back to within a few points of the Bulls and grab a bonus point, but Du Preez agreed that the points given away when Curwin Bosch was off the field after being yellow carded for a blatant trip were what cost his team.

“You just cannot afford that. We gave away too many points early in the game and it left us with too much to make up. I thought we had a good second half, but we need to work on our discipline.”

The second yellow card picked up by Lukhanyo Am just as the Sharks were mounting a strong second-half challenge was forgivable in the sense that it looked like Am had his eyes trained on the ground and was committed, but it was also costly.

Of course, the Bulls also lost star lock RG Snyman for 10 minutes for a blatant and unnecessary shoulder charge, a transgression that was as stupid as that committed by Bosch, and this is a national malaise that needs sorting out.

In this age where referees flash cards for even the most minor infringements, like not getting it right when you are trying to intercept a pass, it doesn’t help the coaches when the teams are disadvantaged through what can best be described as sheer stupidity.


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