Sharks get 'quality' back at crucial stage
SPOTLIGHT: Utility back Werner Kok said the mood in the Sharks’ camp has been “lifted’ since their top Springboks returned to training recently.
Players like Siya Kolisi, Eben Etzebeth, Lukhanyo Am and Ox Nche were involved in a Bok camp in Cape Town recently and they haven’t played since January.
The Sharks are going to need those big games to try and get them over the line in the United Rugby Championship and the Champions Cup.
The Durban-based side are currently seventh in the URC standings with just three games left to play.
They are in Wales this week ahead of their Round 16 clash against the Scarlets before they head back to Durban for a Champions Cup Round of 16 clash against Munster at Kings Park.
It remains to be seen how many of those Boks will be selected for the Scarlets match this weekend, but just their presence alone has boosted the confidence levels in the Sharks squad.
“It is always a big lift when the Springboks are back,” said Kok.
“They bring a different quality to training and a different quality of precision.
“It actually boosts everyone in the team. The vibe and the excitement going into the weekend and training was amazing.”
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Being in seventh place, the Sharks will also be thinking about qualification into next season’s Champions Cup.
The winner of each Shield conference will qualify for that tournament. The remaining four places will then be awarded to the four highest-ranked teams in the single-standing league table who did not win their regional conference.
The Sharks are dangling in a dangerous position when it comes to that and that is why Kok believes the match against the Scarlets is probably their “most important game.”
The Scarlets are sitting in 14th position in the standings, but the Sharks won’t be taking their opponents lightly in Llanelli.
“You can never underestimate any team,” said Kok.
“The Welsh players are very physical. They can play proper rugby and I know the Scarlets are getting a few international players back.
“It is going to be a big test and we are going to have to be on top of the ball from minute one to minute 85 or 90, depending on how long the game goes. You never know.”