Having enjoyed a well-earned and richly-deserved break last week, the Cell C Sharks are back in action, having won five of their six opening games to enjoy top spot on the log with a game in hand over half the other teams in the competition, reports Sharks website editor Michael Marnewick.
There is good news on the injury front as centre Paul Jordaan comes back into the reckoning for this weekend’s match against the Lions, although Director of Rugby Jake White may not be too willing to tamper with the winning combination that dismantled the high-riding Waratahs fairly comprehensively at Kings Park in the last match before the bye.
The next two months is a hugely important period for the Sharks as they face a testing time both at home and then on their four week tour, before facing the Stormers in their final game ahead of the June break.
But they’re back on the training pitch and refreshed and ready for the challenge.
“The most important aspect is the mental break the bye gave us,” said White.
“This tournament takes its toll and more so what’s coming. We have eight weeks before our next break. Mentally, it was a good break for us and we all knew that mentally we had to take some time out because we’re going to be under pressure in the next two months.”
With both byes now gone, some might suggest that they’ve come too early, but it suits the Sharks for a number of reasons, most of all the opportunity early to play the Springboks constantly, knowing there would be breaks.
“It was nice to have byes early on which we were lucky enough to get; it suited us because we had so many Springboks, it suited the management of our player resources,” White explains.
“We lost 11 or 12 Springboks to the end of year tour, so it helped us to have the bye early. Now the hard yards start, we have eight weeks in a row. We saw the Stormers coming back from tour and losing to the Waratahs. We have to come back and play the Stormers in our last weekend ([before the June break) after touring. And we know they’re a good side.”
Despite not playing on the weekend, a combination of other results as well as the log points they’ve picked up meant the Sharks stayed top of the log regardless. And with a game in hand they now have the opportunity over the next two months – a testing period indeed – to really take control on the log if they get the results they desire.
“We were in a great position going into the bye week, even though we weren’t playing, we would still manage to remain on top of the log. But I’ve said it a number of times, it’s not where you are on the log during the season but where you end up at the conclusion of the season.
“Our destiny is in our hands, we have eight weeks ahead of us and in those eight weeks we can really stake a claim for the title. That’s why it was good to get away and refocus on what’s coming.”