Sharks have overcome their 'lockdown blues'
SPOTLIGHT: The Sharks have ‘turned the corner’ after a slow start to their Super Rugby Unlocked season.
Burly hooker Kerron van Vuuren admitted other teams “caught up” to them during the COVID-19-enforced lockdown period – after the Durban-based franchise was in sublime form during the opening seven weeks of Super Rugby.
The Sharks were sitting pretty at the top of the Super Rugby standings when the SANZAAR championship was suspended in March.
Their run included impressive wins over the Bulls, Highlanders, Jaguares and Stormers.
However, when Super Rugby Unlocked kicked off last months, the Sharks struggled to replicate that form – edging the Lions 19-16, followed by a bye and then a horrible 14-41 loss to the Bulls.
They bounced back with an emphatic 42-19 win over the Pumas last week.
“We came out a bit slow,” Van Vuuren told a media gathering in Durban – as the team started building towards their crucial round five encounter with the unbeaten Cheetahs.
“The other teams had caught up to us during that lockdown period,” he said of the seven-month lay-off, adding: “It was a tough start for us, coming back.
“[However,] we had a great win [against the Pumas] this past weekend, showing what we can do, replicating the [Super Rugby] form from early in the year.
“The team’s on a good path, getting back to where we were.
“We have definitely turned the corner.
“There is still a lot of work to be done, to bring back that Super Rugby standard.”
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Van Vuuren, 25, said that after missing the Sharks’ opening win over the Lions through a ‘freak’ chest injury, he is starting to feel back to his best.
He said it was his first injury and was quite a bit of a ‘mental knock’.
“Coming out lockdown, I didn’t have the opportunity to lift heavy weights at home,” he said, adding: “When we came back into training, we were doing a bit of strength testing in the gym and it was just a freak accident.”
He admitted their resolve will be tested against the Cheetahs, the only team to have beaten the Bulls in the unlocked series.
“We have a good opportunity against the Cheetahs, Friday at home.
“They are hungry chaps,” Van Vuuren said, adding that the Bloemfontein outfit is determined to prove a point after getting kicked out of the Pro14.
“Desperation breeds good performances and makes guys get to different levels and play above themselves.
“They are playing with a lot of energy.
“We have studied them this week and our boys are definitely going to be up for the game this Friday.
“We are definitely going to have to be very focused and we can’t let one area of our game slack.”