Sharks ‘must be alert’

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But Melbourne is built around one of the most famous casinos in the world, and the tourists will not care a hoot that history suggests they will lose against the Sharks at Kings Park. Their money will be on red, not black, as they look to win their first game in South Africa in nine attempts.

The Sharks, in turn, seldom lose at home to Australian teams and have a 71 percent, or 22 from 31, ratio against touring Aussie teams.

All of this will count as irrelevant, though, when the match kicks-off at 7.10pm and the Sharks set about building on their drought-breaking win in Brisbane last week by seeing off the tricky Rebels, and in the process take another tentative step in the way of redemption. That, of course, will only happen, should the Sharks back up a win over the Rebels by coming back after their bye (next week) and beating the SA Conference-topping Stormers in Durban in what will be a curtain call for the Sharks’ Super Rugby campaign.

This week, Director of Rugby Gary Gold spoke of the unrelenting pressure on his team, and he quite candidly admitted that there feasibly is more pressure than ever on the Sharks this week to beat the Rebels. Having squeaked home against the Reds in Brisbane, the valve on the pressure cooker was turned down a few notches, but only for a few days, because a home loss to the Rebels will see the lid blow off and up into the KZN sky.

Pressure? There is more pressure than ever on the Sharks. If they cannot back up their win over the Reds with a home victory over a lowly-ranked Aussie team that has never won in South Africa, then the Sharks will be back to square one. And knives that are only half-way-sheathed will be whipped out with new frenzy.

For the Sharks’ faithful, after suffering that six-match losing streak, nothing more than a finishing flourish of three wins in a row will do to salvage pride and give the message that the Sharks may indeed be counted out of the play-offs in 2015, but they are still a going concern with big ambitions for the future.

“Of course we want to build on our win last week and show we’re back on track,” said lock Mouritz Botha, who is back in the team following the knee injury to Stephan Lewies.

“The Rebels play a lot of rugby in the tradition of Australian rugby, they’re dangerous,” the former England international said. “They are similar to the Lions in that they play from everywhere. We’ll have to be switched on – they take quick taps and line-outs, so we’ll have to be alert to how they play.”

The Rebels come to Durban in 10th place, a spot above the Sharks, who have played one more game than the Melbourne team, and they have had a mixed bag of a year that has included victories over luminaries such as the Crusaders and Wallabies.

“They can in no way be discounted,” Botha said. “We have painfully learned that one little mistake on defence costs you a try, whoever you play.”

Sharks: Lwazi Mvovo, Odwa Ndungane, JP Pietersen, Andre Esterhuizen, S’bura Sithole, Lionel Cronje, Stefan Ungerer, Ryan Kankowski, Willem Alberts / Etienne Oosthuizen, Renaldo Bothma, Marco Wentzel (captain), Mouritz Botha, Jannie du Plessis, Bismarck du Plessis, Tendai Mtawarira. Replacements: Franco Marais, Matt Stevens, Lourens Adriaanse, Lubabalo Mtyanda, Etienne Oosthuizen / Khaya Majola, Conrad Hoffmann, Fred Zeilinga, Heimar Williams.

Rebels: Mike Harris, Dom Shipperley, Safanaia Naivalu, Mitch Inman, Tom English, Jack Debreczeni, Luke Burgess, Scott Higginbotham, Coly Fainga’a, Sean McMahon, Lopeti Timani, Luke Jones, Laurie Weeks, Pat Leafa, Toby Smith. Replacements: Tom Sexton, Cruze Ah-Nau, Paul Alo-Emile,Cadeyrn Neville, Scott Fuglistaller, Nic Stirzaker, Jordy Reid, Bryce Hegarty.

The Star

Original source: Sharks ‘must be alert’

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