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Big 'Euro Final' not a distraction for Sharks

INTERVIEW: The Sharks are on the verge of achieving one of their main goals – winning one of Europe’s premier competitions.

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However, in the next fortnight, they face two potential banana skins.

Assistant coach Warren Whiteley knows the potential pitfalls of taking their eye off the jobs at hand.

Coming off the high of their sensational one-point (32-31) win over French giants Clermont Auvergne at Twickenham Stoop this past weekend, they now have to switch focus to the United Rugby Championship.

They FACE Benetton at Kings Park on Saturday, followed by another URC face-off against Cardiff (also in Durban), before travelling to north London for the Challenge Cup Final encounter with Gloucester on May 24.

They return to Durban for their final URC match of the season – against the Bulls.

(Continue below …)

Sharks assistant coach Warren Whiteley said the ability to shift focus between competitions – from the URC to Challenge Cup and back – is a challenge they are still getting used to.

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With that EPCR Final just a fortnight away, there is the risk of getting distracted during the next two rounds of the URC.

However, Whiteley is adamant that they are ‘focused’ on Benetton this week.

He said they will use the encounters with Benetton and Cardiff to fix the issues found during a ‘thorough review’ of their win over Clermont.

“This weekend allows us to get better and improve in the aspects of our game we need to be better at,” the forwards coach said.

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“In the last two months we made great strides in our game,” he said, adding: “We know there are some areas we must improve on.”

Whiteley said the Benetton game is an ‘important’ hurdle to overcome.

“It is a privilege to be in a Final and we have reached that goal, but we have three massive home games and winning them is another goal we have set for ourselves.”

He said the fact that they did not dominate the set pieces against Clermont gives them specific areas to focus on.

“Despite not being at our best in the set pieces, we found a way to win,” Whiteley told @rugby365com.

“It was very pleasing to see the fight and resilience in the group.

“It shows the growth – not just in our game, but the connection in the team and how they care for each other.”

He said the set pieces and breakdown are among the areas they want to ‘clean up’.

Whiteley said the role World Cup winners like Ox Nche, Bongi Mbonambi, Vincent Koch, Eben Etzebeth, Makazole Mapimpi and Lukhanyo Am played were vital in getting the team over the line.

“They contributed massively, while their leadership was huge for us,” he told @rugby365com.

“Eben [Etzebeth] had a phenomenal game this past weekend. He lead from the front.”

Siya Masuku also received recognition for his role – pulling the strings in a flyhalf masterclass.

“It has been incredible to watch him develop.

“We saw signs of that at the Cheetahs.

“He was phenomenal for the Cheetahs and this season – since taking over the flyhalf role at the Sharks – he has gone from strength to strength.

“He is still hungry and wants to be better.

“There’s bigger things to come.”

@king365ed
@rugby365com

 

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