Sharks

Smit has ‘shivers down his spine’

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John Smit has balanced any ideas of home advantage for his Sharks by lauding the Blues as an outfit with “enough to send shivers down your spine”.

“The Blues are a team of very few weaknesses,” Smit said ahead of their semi-final encounter in Durban on Saturday.

“They are a naturally attacking team and with their good forwards, strong strike runners, that’s enough to send shivers down your spine.”

Smit says that his side’s league victory over the Blues bears no relation to this encounter.

“This is a totally different scenario in terms of how the teams match up.”

“In Albany, the wet weather conditions probably suited us more and we adapted our game plan.

“We also played them before they went on tour and sometimes, like we did when we lost to the Brumbies, you fall into the trap of having one foot on the plane.

“This time around, though, it’s a different game and it’s going to take a bigger effort to beat them.

“They will be twice as hard to beat this time around because they know it’s do or die.”

Smit conceded the benefits of playing at home.

“It’s great not having to travel away from home,”

“I get to wake up and see my daughter and have breakfast with my wife. It’s something I wouldn’t be able to do if we had to travel away. We are feeling comfortable and trying to approach this as just another game.”

With the Sharks and the Bulls finishing top of the log, Smit believes South African rugby is set for a shot of renewed confidence.

“When we started off our Super 14 campaign, the goal was to finish top of log and then go all way.

“We have managed to realise the first and are now on our way to accomplishing the second, starting this week.

“In the past, winning the Super 12 or Super 14 helped the All Blacks a lot.”

“It builds momentum and generates confidence among the players. It’s no surprise that the New Zealanders dominate at provincial and international level. Success at both levels goes hand in hand.

“If the Sharks and the Bulls beat the New Zealand teams in the semi-finals this weekend it will be a huge psychological boost for our rugby.

“It will be like a fairytale for Jake White and the Springbok selectors if we can play the Bulls in the final but we are certainly not thinking so far ahead,” Smit said.

As for the planning ahead of Saturday’s cruical clash, Smit says the Sharks “will stick to the things that work for us.

“But we can adapt, and the guys are happy to change tactics; sometimes we got caught out, but we are a flexible team who can vary things, but we won’t change much from what’s worked for us.”

Meanwhile Blues coach David Nucifora has said it is encouraging to see a competitive South Africa in the provincial and regional stakes, that is in Super rugby, but he also added that that does not necessarily translate into Test form.

“It is good to see the South Africans at the top of the points table,” Nucifora said.

“I have noticed that the interest in this weekend’s matches is huge but I do not feel the performances of the Sharks and the Bulls will necessarily be carried over into the Test arena.

“I say this because there are many differences between Super 14 and Test rugby. The combinations within teams differ a lot. Therefore, I am reluctant to assume that the Springboks will benefit from what happens in the Super 14.”

Nucifora was somewhat embittered after his side’s defeat to the Sharks earlier in the competition, believing the Sharks had used some dirty and illegal tactics to impose their authority upon the game.

Blues skipper Troy Flavell left us in no doubt as to the fact that his side was using the previous clash to motivate themselves for Saturday.

“We are not here to take revenge but this is an opportunity to put matters right,” Flavell said.

“We may have to respond to their game by playing the same game. The Sharks like to dominate their opponents physically. They build momentum by achieving that sort of advantage.

“They are very strong up front, they have good halfbacks and they’re good out on the wing. We expect them to take us on up front and then move the ball wide, which is similar to how we play.”

365 Digital

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