Knock-out Time – Featured Durban Blog

Knock-out Time:

The Cell C Sharks will be looking to show the kind of form we demonstrated in our ten match winning streak that took us to an unassailable position on the log and the honour of hosting our knock-out matches for as long as we remain in the Currie Cup competition.

Having suffered a hiccup against Western Province on the weekend, it’s back to playing as we know we can.

“No-one goes out to lose a game, and we were a bit off-key, but it was certainly a game of two halves where we weren’t clinical enough tactically,” says Keegan Daniel. “But it was a good wake-up call, a result we’ll put behind us and put all our focus on the Blue Bulls this weekend.”

He explains that the mood in the camp is one of excitement at the prospect of not only playing in a semi-final, but reaching a home final at Growthpoint KINGS PARK and the opportunity to fight for the trophy.

“There are only a handful of us here at the Sharks who have been in knock-outs and won trophies, for the younger guys, it’s quite exciting for them. We will just spend the week working on the basics and doing them really, really well.

The key to winning play-off rugby isn’t quite rocket science and the Cell C Sharks won’t veer off from the plan that delivered top of the log status for their season successes. 

“The margins are so small and the opportunities minimal, so it’s about capitalising on opportunities,” he explains. “I think the team that’s the most clinical in their execution of the basics has to be successful. Also, it’s not about fancy moves but rather executing the game plan best. We’ve stuck to a game plan all season and we’ll be looking to implement it on the weekend as well as looking to play in the right areas.”

Although we’ve played the Bulls twice in the competition, the most recent clash an 18-5 victory at Growthpoint KINGS PARK, he’s reading nothing into past successes.

“I don’t think the fact that we beat them home and away gives us added motivation. Knock-out rugby is a completely different beast to the pool stages. The Bulls have improved immensely, particularly under John Mitchell. That old style of Bulls rugby has been replaced by quite a nice brand of rugby involving forwards and backs.”

But regardless of past successes – for either team – there is undoubtedly pressure that the players must bear.

“They’re building confidence and key for us will be managing the game and playing in the right areas of the field as well as backing our defence. It’s been a key strength of ours. There is definitely more pressure when it comes to knock-out games, it’s a do-or-die match and it’s about the team who can show the most composure and be the most clinical.

“We have a good plan which we’ve been building on all season and which has worked for us.” 

As one of the forwards, he accepts that his pack need to lay a platform for the backline.

“Ultimately, without a dominant forward pack, the backs can’t do much and I think we’ve built nicely with the forwards we have who have put in some strong performances over the course of the season.

“And I don’t think we will be under-rating the Bulls pack, especially one pack that wants to build for the future. They’ve adapted more of a skills type of game over sheer brawn which brings a different dynamic to their game which will present a challenge defensively.”

Although it’s a little premature at this stage to be talking about the final, but certainly winning the trophy again would add so much to Sharks rugby and our legion of fans.

“For me, the Currie Cup is the premier rugby competition in South Africa, it’s been around for over 100 years and there’s a very special feeling that comes with winning the trophy. A few of us have managed that, we speak about it and it would be great for the youngsters to enjoy that success too. With it would come confidence, knowing how to win breeds further success. It would also be good for our fans and for rugby here in the province.

“It’s been a while, the last on was in 2013 and the fans would love another win; we need to produce a result.”

The post Knock-out Time appeared first on Sharks Rugby.

A Game of Two Halves:

Both coaches admitted that the past Saturday’s Currie Cup final pool round clash between the Cell C Sharks and Western Province at Growthpoint KINGS PARK was a game of two distinct halves, with one under so much more pressure than the other.

Cell C Sharks head coach Robert du Preez admitted that, “In the first half, although we were up on the scoreboard, we were just going through the motion and that saw us going into the second half thinking we could continue in the same way. Then they started playing proper rugby and putting us under pressure.

“All credit to Western Province, they were just a lot hungrier for the win, we have no excuses whatsoever. You can’t take any game for granted and think you can pitch up and just go through the motions. That’s the bottom line.”

Although team morale will have taken a bit of a knock, it’s important to compartmentalise this game, especially in light of the fact that the players would have had to motivate themselves in an entirely different way to the natural motivation that comes from a knock-out game.

“We have put in a lot of hard work, this squad has worked incredibly hard throughout the year and we are going to have to re-gather on Monday. This is a game we need to forget and move on.”

Du Preez felt that we should have put the game out of question when we enjoyed a 10 point lead, but certainly in this Saturday’s home semi-final, the players will accept the challenge.

“Quality sides that are up 13-3 at half-time, put other teams away. In a final, you have to take your chances and that’s what we’re going to need to do.”

While the Cell C Sharks coach was clearly disappointed at an outcome where the team had wanted to continue the momentum they have built up and go into next week’s home semi-final with confidence, Western Province coach John Dobson appeared more relieved than jubilant at his team’s victory.

Citing the 13-3 half-time deficit as a real concern in their quest for the victory that would secure the other home semi-final, he still paid tribute to the Cell C Sharks.

“I was impressed with the Sharks’ intensity,” he admitted. “For a dead rubber for them, we were in a lot of trouble with the sheer physicality and momentum they were getting.

“I thought we got a bit bullied early on and we weren’t getting yards in our carries. With the way the Sharks were playing so directly, we needed to get more direct ourselves and I think that happened in the second half. I don’t think either side played with much fluidity on attack, it was always going to be a big, physical fight and I’m pleased with the way we stayed in it.

“We were just more desperate than them because we had to get a home semi. I was really pleased with the way we survived the onslaught from which I think is the best team in the competition.”

The Cell C Sharks will want to redeem themselves in their home semi-final match against the Blue Bulls with a stronger showing. The semi-final match starts at Growthpoint KINGS PARK starts at 14h30 on Saturday.

The post A Game of Two Halves appeared first on Sharks Rugby.

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