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Rugby | Currie Cup

Sharks work on blunting 'Kiwi' approach

The Sharks know that they are facing a very different Blue Bulls team in Saturday’s Currie Cup semifinal to the one they have faced in the past and they are working full out this week on finding ways to blunt what could be called “the Mitch impact”.

When the two teams last met it was earlier in John Mitchell’s tenure as head coach and the second round clash at Kings Park was also played in inclement conditions that made ball in hand attack a difficult thing to pull off and make effective. If the weather is different for the Durban semifinal, however, the Sharks are expecting to feel the effects of the former All Black coach’s imprint on the Pretoria team.

“As defence coach, I obviously look at how they play, and Mitch has given the Bulls a new style of play which is typically Kiwi,” says Sharks assistant coach Ryan Strudwick.

“Their forwards still come around the corner at you but they have moved on from their old one-off runner, bashing style of old. The forwards are now looking to handle the ball and look for support runners. You never saw that from Bulls forwards before.

“The Bulls will now attack from anywhere. They are no longer afraid to even have a crack from behind their goal line.” Strudwick believes the key to blunting the Mitchell style of play is to win the gain-line battle, as that is what creates the Bulls’ momentum to attack.

“The gain-line battle will be key to deciding the match,” agreed Strudwick.

Strudwick said that the last round of the league phase defeat to Western Province had been quickly put behind the squad when the preparations for the semi-final started in earnest on Monday.

“The mistakes we made last week were elementary ones that we don’t normally make so there is no point in dwelling too much on that game,” he said.

“There was very little we could take out of that performance. Mentally, we just weren’t there. We were simply poor. We acknowledged that and have quickly put it behind us. The players had already discussed it amongst themselves and were in agreement. There were no stand-out performances against WP. Normally the players choose their own man of the match after the game but this we couldn’t pick one. Enough said.

“We are not going to change anything now. We know the drill. And mentally nobody has to say a word. Obviously there is everything to play for this week. Semi-finals are played on the edge. You have to stick to basics and cut out errors. You do everything at 110 percent because it will come down to who wants it more.”


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