Following a month long break from United Rugby Championship action, the Cell C Sharks return to Hollywoodbets Kings Park this Sunday evening when they host Cardiff Rugby.
It’s an important weekend with sides jockeying for log positions as the tournament heads for the halfway stage. With two games in hand over most of the teams above them on the overall log, the Cell C Sharks go into this match knowing that they have every opportunity of taking a vital step towards a top four finish.
Providing an update on the team’s readiness for this match after their break, Cell C Sharks Director of Rugby Neil Powell explained, “After our friendly, but full-contact, match against Free State last week when we gave returning-from-injury players some game time as well as the rest of the squad, hopefully we’ll have some flow and momentum going into this Cardiff match.”
There have been numerous personnel changes from the last game, necessitated by both Springbok commitments and injury. A big loss is the injury to Aphelele Fassi during the SA’A’ two match series, but Powell pointed out that there is ample back-up in the number 15 jersey.
“It’s obviously tough losing a player of the quality of Fassi, someone we’d rather have on the field than on the sidelines watching, but we have a very capable player in the form of Anthony Volmink who starts this weekend. He’s someone who knows our structures, he’s been in the system for a while now and he’s eager to show what he’s capable of. So it’s nice to have a back-up player of his calibre at fullback and we have other options there as well.”
The midfield has also been bolstered by the return of Rohan Janse van Rensburg at centre, where he will partner Francois Venter.
“It’s good to have quality players like Rohan back in the team, especially for this weekend when the conditions are expected to be wet and difficult,” said Powell. “He’s one of those centres who can be more direct and it’s great to have him in partnership with Francois.”
The Cell C Sharks’ last match was an away game against the Bulls, and Powell admitted that they have taken a valuable lesson from that match.
“There’s a lot we can learn from any game, especially the ones you’ve lost,” he explained. “The lesson we can take, not only from that game, but the whole week, is our preparation for that game went so well but there wasn’t the carry-over into the game.
“The focus for us this week is to carry over the good prep we’ve had this week onto the field, and to make sure we give the same effort and accuracy.”
Turning his attention to Cardiff who are also missing a few of their players, he warned that the Cell C Sharks won’t be taking their Welsh opponents lightly.
“They’re a really good team who’ve changed the way they played last season a bit, but definitely a quality team with good structures in place. The conditions might suit their play which means we need to manage the game well and that we show good discipline.
“The majority of their tries come from lineouts and mauling, so with that comes our discipline and the fact that we can’t give away too many penalties that they can then kick to the line and play off their lineouts.
“Defensively, they’re very strong and this is going to be a game we have to make sure we’re up for.”
He added that, “This is a great opportunity for our boys to show that we can play at this level and that we can be successful in front of our home crowd.”