If the Sharks were in any doubt about Griquas presenting them with a tough challenge in their Currie Cup match at Kings Park on Friday night, then the fact that the Northern Cape side have won their last two matches in Durban should dispel any notions of a stroll in the park.
Although the KwaZulu-Natalians beat Griquas 45-20 in Kimberley last year, Griquas won 21-18 at Kings Park in 2014, repeating their 32-30 triumph there in 2013, and Sharks coach Robert du Preez is in no mood for complacency this week.
“Griquas are a very tough side, they’ll be very physical, and we have to bring our A game to beat them,” Du Preez said.
While the Sharks at their best are able to keep ball in hand and stretch most defences, it will be up front in the trenches where Friday night’s game will be won or lost.
“We’re looking to keep ball-in-hand for longer and play more rugby, but the forwards need to create the space on the outside, they need to be direct and dominate contact. You have to earn the right to go wide.
“Griquas are always gutsy, they did well in the qualifiers and I think we’re up for a hard game. They’ll come out and play good rugby, with a lot of energy running on to the ball. They enjoy playing with the ball, they’re unpredictable and they also have their maul and their direct forward play,” loose forward Philip van der Walt said.
Griquas were the leading qualifiers from the preliminary stage, with 11 wins in 14 games, but the whole EP Kings saga has hampered the momentum they would have wanted to take into the Premier Division.
They were originally going to play the Kings in last weekend’s opening round of fixtues, but then it was going to be the Leopards and then they ended up eventually having a bye.
“It has been an unbelievably frustrating couple of weeks, it’s been difficult. We have been doing analysis on three different teams, focused training with a team picked to play the Leopards and then we did not even have a game last week. Some key players were rested for the last game of the qualifiers and the result is some players have not played for over four weeks!
“Mentally it has been difficult and after finishing as the first qualifiers we did not expect this, but we have been training hard, we refocused and will ensure we give everything to make our supporters proud of Griquas,” Peter Engledow, the coach of Griquas, told the side’s website.