Bok-less Sharks gear for brutal battle in the Tank
The Sharks emerged from their November break determined to keep the team well-entrenched in the United Rugby Championship play-off zone.
Since their Round Seven loss to the Bulls (27-40) in Pretoria, without their assemblage of Springboks – seven of whom are in the matchday 23 to face England at Twickenham on Saturday – the Sharks have been hard at work rectifying some of the costly errors exposed at the Loftus Versfeld cauldron.
The Sharks Congolese-born loose forward Vincent Tshituka said the November break, during the international window, could not have come at a better time for him.
He has finally recovered from the shoulder surgery he underwent at the end of the inaugural URC season.
“During the off-season I underwent surgery and it felt like I did not have time off,” he told @rugby365com.
“The two-week break was critical for me to get my mind out of the game.
“I now feel refreshed and ready to go.”
He added they placed a “massive emphasis” on squad effort going into the next block of games, starting with Cardiff in Durban on Sunday.
“It will take our entire squad to compete and do well in both competitions,” Tshituka said of their debut in the European Cup against Harlequins on December 10, which follows the next fortnight of URC action.
“We have been working hard at getting everybody on a world-class performance level, so we are ready to go for the URC and [European] Champions Cup.”.
He said will not look too far forward and their focus is only on Cardiff this week, even though there is the big European assignment looming next month.
(Tshituka’s chats with @king365ed …)
“We can’t lose sight of what is ahead of us now,” the 24-year-old said.
He said the set-piece battle is going to be massive against Cardiff this week.
“They have a really good set piece and a lot of their game is driven from their set piece,” he told @rugby365com.
Without the likes of Siyamthanda Kolisi, Eben Etzebeth, Mbongeni Mbonambi, Retshegofaditswe Nche and Thomas du Toit, the Sharks pack will be tested by a much-improved Cardiff team.
There’s been a significant improvement in their form from last season, when they finished 14th – with just seven victories out of 18 games.
They have won four of their seven matches this season, to install themselves as the leading Welsh side in the competition, lying in sixth place.
Ending the 15-match unbeaten run of reigning champions the Stormers on a euphoric occasion at the Arms Park has been the highlight of their season.
Speaking of the absence of their large collection of internationals, Tshituka said it is a testimony to the union, who puts at a premium “creating as many world-class players as possible”.
“We are fortunate to have so many – nine, who is currently away on international duty.
“It allows everybody in the squad an opportunity to play.
“The next 10 to 12 weeks are going to require a massive squad effort.
“It won’t just be the same faces all the time.”