Warren Britz rejected speculation that the Sharks will be under prepared for their match against the Vodacom Blue Bulls on Saturday.
The Sharks have scored a total of 144 points in their last two games against the Pumas and Griquas respectively, and were hardly tested defensively in both those games. But Britz said his side were right were they wanted to be ahead of the decisive clash at the Absa Stadium Durban.
“We are not complacent at all and our preparation in the build up to the Bulls game has been excellent,” he told keo.co.za.
“We’ve identified Saturday’s game as the big one and the games leading up to that were always viewed as an opportunity to get certain structures right that might have been an area of concern in the first round.
“I think we’ve done that now,” he asserted.
Finishing has been an area both Dick Muir and captain AJ Venter have identified as a potential stumbling block for the Sharks this season. In games throughout the first round (and sporadically in the second round), the Durban-based side failed to convert opportunities they’ve created, due to handling errors possibly because of the overeagerness of their young side.
Britz though is convinced that they have rectified those problems.
“The encouraging thing to come from the past two games is the fact that we’ve taken most, if not all of our opportunities to score. Even though the game was so open, the guys stuck to the gameplan and cut out the 50-50 stuff. It was great to see,” he said.
In the first round game at Loftus, the Sharks comprehensively outmuscled the Bulls pack, a facet of play the Pretoria-based side have become renowned for buildiing their game around. Britz though refused to speculate about whether that impressive showing would mean that they had the psychological edge in the forwards.
“We haven’t really given our last win over them that much thought.
“What we do know is that the Bulls are always a physical side. But I think people underestimate the physicality of our pack.
“It all begins and ends up front, and we know that if we can nullify them in the forwards then we can really have a go at them with the backs,” he said.
With Tim Dlulane out for the foreseeable future with a career threatening neck injury, the Bulls will go into the game without a specialist fetcher. Vodacoom Western Province exposed this deficiency in their recent clash at Newlands, when their loose trio dominated the breakdown.
Britz, who fills the specialist opensider role for the Sharks, though views the Bulls pack as a unit and scoffs at the suggestion that one player would make a difference to their effectiveness in the tight phases.
“It would be stupid of us to think that we can just go out and kill them at the breakdown because as a unit their forwards are very effective.
“They are extremely physical at ruck and maul situations, so we’ll have to be on top of our game in that area. One player won’t make a difference to their pack.”
With the Tri-Nations concluded, Muir now awaits news about the availability of his Springboks. Britz confirmed that they would know later today who would be released to play on Saturday. He though emphasised that his side had enough depth to cover if first choice players were unavailable for selection.
“It’s not something new to us,” he said referring to the Sharks constant uncertainty about squad selection as a result Springbok call-ups. “Guys like JP [Pietersen] have trained with us for a whole week in the past and then been called up to the Springboks.
“But that is where you really see the benefit of the dual-squad system we introduced earlier in the season. Guys slip in and out of the side pretty easily now without us losing too much quality.
“No matter who plays on Saturday, we’ll really be up for it.”
By Ryan Vrede