No welcome mat for Sharks 'expats'
INTERVIEW: Fezokuhle Brian Zomakahle Mbatha is adamant the table-topping Sharks is not the finished product yet, despite sitting pretty at the top of the Currie Cup standings.
The Durban-based outfit (43) is two points clear of the second-placed Cheetahs in what is generally acknowledged as one of the most competitive Currie Cup seasons in many years.
The Pumas (36) lead the chasing bunch – followed by four teams within a point of each other: Western Province, Lions, Bulls (all on 31) and Griquas (30).
The Sharks have already secured their play-off spot, but could still drop down as low as third place.
The Griffons are the only team no longer in the play-off race.
Hosting the Lions in the Shark Tank on Saturday, they could take a giant leap towards finishing the season in top spot.
Mbatha, 23, said it is a vital game for several reasons – most significantly the ‘momentum’ they can take into the play-offs.
“Every single game is important to us, regardless of log position,” he told an online media gathering.
“It is all about momentum and getting every possible thing right before the play-offs.
“We must play the best we can every Saturday to give ourselves the best possible chance to win the Currie Cup,” Mbatha added.
He said they know the importance of keeping their collective feet on the gas.
“It is all about keeping the momentum and getting better every week, because we haven’t won anything yet,” he said about the team’s six-match winning streak – a run that includes overcoming the defending-champion Pumas and twice beating the then table-topping Cheetahs.
“We are not quite at our best yet and will continue to strive for improvement.”
However, the former Maritzburg College scholar feels there is another big motivation.
Two former Sharks – centre Marius Louw and scrumhalf Sanele Nohamba – are influential members of the visiting Lions.
The duo were also key players during their stay in the Shark Tank, before moving north to Ellis Park last year.
“We will ‘welcome’ them back to the Shark Tank, of course, but at 19.00 on Saturday there will be no friendly catch-ups,” Mbatha said.
The two Durban expats, along with the other visitors from Gauteng, can prepare themselves for some inhospitable and antagonistic ‘encounters’.
“The Lions are a good side and this game is like a quarterfinal for them,” he said.
“They will come here with plenty of physicality, so we plan to fight fire with fire,” Mbatha added.
“We will bring our own physicality and will front up to their pack.
“I have the utmost confidence in our pack. We will put our best foot forward and be as physical as possible.”