Durban — Before the Sharks left Durban two weeks ago, coach Sean Everitt said his team had targeted 10 log points for the three-match tour from the possible 15, and having bagged five of them last week in Parma, the goal can be reached in Newport on Saturday night.
The question as to why Everitt did not say the target was 15 is because he was being realistic in that the tour ends in Dublin next week against Leinster, who are arguably the best team in Europe, so nailing wins against Zebre and on Saturday night against the Dragons made more sense.
Also, before leaving home, the tour looked to be perfectly balanced in terms of progressive toughness, with the bottom dwellers from the last URC, Zebre, first up, followed by the team that finished second last, the Dragons, and those two games would have warmed the Sharks up for the big one against Leinster.
But the form book for the new URC season is looking markedly different, with the two teams that finished 16th (stone last) and 15th in the last edition — Zebre and the Dragons — having pulled themselves together.
In fact, Zebre came within a few minutes of pulling off the shock of the century against Leinster in the first round, just losing 33-29, and last week they almost pipped the Sharks at the death (42-37); and the Dragons shrugged of a difficult start away to Edinburgh by shocking Leinster’s great rivals, Munster, last week in Newport.
The Welshmen clearly play much better at their historic Rodney Parade in Newport and the Sharks will know that their 52-3 slaying of the Dragons five months ago at Hollywoodbets Kings Park is half a world away.
Perhaps the only relevance to take out of that game is that the Dragons will be hell-bent on avenging that humiliation.
It was hot and muggy that day in Durban and conditions will be very different tonight (8.30pm kickoff, SA time).
It is expected to be wet and cold but of the Sharks start off on fire as they did against Zebre they should be okay.
“That first half was the best 40 minutes we have played for a long time, and we take the positives from that,” Everitt said from Newport.
“But then in the second we allowed Zebre to get momentum, too much width on defence and we did not stick to our kicking plan.
“So the lessons learned from that is we put ourselves under the pump and there it is fixable.
“In the first half we were not under pressure and much of that is because we gave away almost no penalties, but we conceded seven in the second and that caused the momentum shift.”
Dragons: 15 Angus O’Brien, 14 Rio Dyer, 13 Sio Tomkinson, 12 Jack Dixon, 11 Ashton Hewitt, 10 Will Reed, 9 Rhodri Williams; 8 Aki Seiuli, 7 Elliot Dee, 6 Lloyd Fairbrother, 5 Ben Carter, 4 Will Rowlands (capt), 3 George Nott, 2 Taine Basham, 1 Ross Moriarty.
Subs: 16 Bradley Roberts, 17 Rob Evans, 18 Chris Coleman, 19 Joe Davies, 20 Aaron Wainwright, 21 Lewis Jones, 22 Max Clark, 23 Jordan Williams.
Sharks: 15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Werner Kok, 13 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 12 Ben Tapuai, 11 Thaakir Abrahams, 10 Boeta Chamberlain, 9 Grant Williams, 8 Phepsi Buthelezi, 7 Dylan Richardson, 6 James Venter, 5 Reniel Hugo, 4 Justin Basson, 3 Thomas du Toit (capt), 2 Kerron van Vuuren, 1 Ntuthuko Mchunu.
Subs: 16 Dan Jooste, 17 Dian Bleuler, 18 Carlu Sadie, 19 Hyron Andrews, 20 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 21 Cameron Wright, 22 Marnus Potgieter, 23 Anthony Volmink