Sharks excited about 'artificial' game
URC SPOTLIGHT: Discipline has been the main talking point ahead of the Sharks’ Round Two encounter with Glasgow Warriors this week.
However, there is another, more intriguing, aspect to the United Rugby Championship match.
The Warriors dislike terms such as ‘plastic’, ‘4G’ or ‘Astroturf’.
For the Sharks, it will be the first time most of their players encounter a synthetic surface.
The team’s discipline – or lack thereof – has certainly resurfaced a few times since the weekend.
Sharks assistant coach John McFarland suggested the team has “made great strides” in improving their questionable discipline – despite being on the wrong end of a 17-6 penalty count in the 17-42 loss to Munster in the opening round of the URC.
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They have three more tough matches on tour – facing Glasgow Warriors at the Scotstoun Stadium (Saturday, October 2), Ospreys (Swansea Stadium, October 8) and Cardiff (Arms Park, October 16).
McFarland said he has spoken to referee Marius van der Westhuizen – who was running touch at Thomond Park in Limerick at the weekend.
“He feels there is ‘great improvement’ in terms of key focus areas like advancing after the kick and rolling away after the tackle,” the Sharks assistant coach said.
“Some of the interpretations at the weekend were very different.
“We have to get used to Northern Hemisphere referees and we have to get used to them quickly, because we are going to get them all the time.”
The other key aspect is that the Sharks will play on an artificial surface for the first time – the synthetic Scotstoun pitch, which has been in use since 2016.
“Everyone is excited to play on a ‘4G’,” the former Springbok assistant coach said of the turf that is also referred to, mockingly, as a ‘plastic’ pitch.
“There is a very big difference.
“It will be a quicker game and it will feel quicker to the players.”
The Sharks mentor said they have trained on a 4G pitch as part of the preparation for Saturday’s outing.
Wing Yaw Penxe said the game is “faster” on the synthetic surface and the ball “bounces around” a bit.
“If the ball goes to the ground, it doesn’t stick as it does on grass,” the 24-year-old flyer said.
The other difference is the ‘roasties’ (turf burn) that are more severe than grass burns.
“A few guys did strap their elbows and knees,” Penxe said of their training run, adding: “We definitely expecting some of those [turf burns].”