Super Rugby

Lewies returns for Sharks after nine months out

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Sharks lock Stephan Lewies, over the serious injury that forced him to take an unexpected and unwanted break from rugby last year, is back in full cry and relishing not only the opportunity to represent his team, but to do so with determination and pride.

“After a nine-month lay-off, I’m personally ready to go; I just want to spend as much time on the field as possible,” he explains.

“After sitting on the sidelines for so long, cheering the guys on, it’s an amazing feeling to be playing again.”

He’s had another break, but this time, it was with the rest of his team-mates for an enforced bye last week and he reflects on recent times.

“The loss [to the Crusaders] was far from ideal and we had wanted to go through that run of five games unbeaten. But the guys had a great break after a full week off, they’ve come back full of energy, looking forward to the next seven games.

“We know we need to get the results over these next seven weeks, with the focus now on Saturday’s game against the Lions.”

The Lions, a team who have been together for some time now, are well-settled, and it is at the set-piece operations that this tends to show the results of continuity in playing personnel. But he feels his own team is developing well.

“We’re a young and new side and previously we had those combinations of players playing together for a long time. We’re still finding our feet but we’re all young and enthusiastic and all striving to be world class. It’s a work in progress and we’re a process-driven team, looking to improve each week on the previous week’s performance. I think we’ve been showing signs of that.

“The Lions have an excellent set-piece, their scrum is something that everyone is talking about and from a lineout point of view, they have quality players there. We’ve done our homework and we aren’t taking them lightly.”

The Lions are renowned for their attacking mentality, looking to penetrate and use all 15 players in every possible situation that presents itself.

“They’re a team that can mix it up on attack, so you don’t always know what you’re getting but I can promise that we will be up for it.”

He expects the challenge to match what his team encountered against the Crusaders, admitting that: “They play similar styles and we know what we’re getting, and having played the Crusaders, it was almost preparation for this match against the Lions. Two teams with similar styles, played in succession, we know what’s coming up.”

Talking styles, he acknowledges that the Sharks and Lions do have differing rugby philosophies, explaining that their opponents look to attack from everywhere while his team is a little more calculated as far as where their attacks originate from.

“We like to attack from the right areas of the field, we don’t want to play from everywhere, but when we can, we want to be able to apply pressure. We’ve shown with our defence that we can apply pressure and turn that into scoring opportunities. And it’s no fluke, we train to defend and turn that into points.”

While this is the final game before the Sharks head off to New Zealand for a round of three matches, Lewies admits that there is no point in looking further ahead than the immediate challenge.

“To be honest, there has been no talk of touring, we’re just taking each week as it comes. Although we now have a run of seven games, we’re concentrating on them one at a time, giving each opponent the respect they deserve.

“Like this week, we have massive respect for the Lions and our focus is purely on this game.”

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