Sharks’ goodbye to stars

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Alberts and the legendary Sharks’ duo of Bismarck and Jannie du Plessis will be leaving the Sharks after this season, and the anticipation of their farewell Super Rugby match against the old enemy, the Stormers, has dominated a large part of the build-up to the game this week.

“When times are tough, that’s when character comes out and you know which players you can rely on to take to war, and those whose respect you can earn,” said Alberts.

“Those players stand out when you finish your career and they are the ones you make special memories with.

“Bismarck and Jannie are certainly in that category. They’re truly great players and people in their own right, and they definitely made a big difference in my rugby career.”

It’s sure to be an emotional day for the departing trio, with the Sharks determined to ensure they can provide a fitting farewell for the long-serving veterans.

“To run out at Kings Park is always a very special feeling,” Alberts said.

“I guess that old rugby saying ‘to play each game like it’s your last’ becomes a reality for me in a Sharks jersey.

“I want to make sure I play my best for my teammates, for myself and all the Sharks fans who have supported me.”

And, while it’s sure to be a big occasion at King’s Park on Saturday night, the Sharks will also be keenly aware they need to keep their focus firmly on the task at hand against the SA conference-winning Stormers.

With the Cape side anticipating they will have a home “quarter-final” clash to contend with next weekend, Stormers’ coach Allister Coetzee has overhauled his team, providing opportunities for a number of young players while also affording some battle-weary stars a chance to rest.

“We’re in a fortunate position to be able to select a talented group of players who have everything to play for against a Sharks team that will be fired up and looking to finish their season on a high,” said Coetzee.

“The Sharks are also saying goodbye to three big players, loyal servants, so we’re expecting a brutal clash and (we) know we need to be up for this match - physically and mentally.”

Even before the Sharks headed off on tour at the end of April, the word from the team has revolved around their desire to restore some pride and respect after a disappointing campaign that has resulted in an 11th place finish in the overall standings.

Director of rugby Gary Gold said while there had been many challenges during the season, he emphasised there could be no excuses.

“I can’t say I’m happy with where we’re sitting on the log, I’m not happy at all. But in terms of the team and turning it around, I’m very proud of the character they’ve shown. I’m appreciative of how the players have stuck together and stuck by us as a coaching staff.

“I never felt at any time that there was a divide between us and them.

“If there were issues, we spoke openly about them and that helped us turn the corner.

“It was too late unfortunately, but there have been lots of positives. Youngsters who we never thought would get Super Rugby experience have now got six or seven games under the belt, and that will only do them the world of good.”

And if the Sharks can pull together for one final big performance to end their season with a bang, it would serve as some consolation for a team that refused to give up the fight, while also providing a deserving send-off for their departing warriors.

Saturday Star

Original source: Sharks’ goodbye to stars

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