The Sharks believe they might’ve “cracked the code” when it comes to beating New Zealand teams in Super Rugby this year but they’re also going to need a guy to drive that code-breaking.
From the Durbanites’ perspective, you couldn’t have wished for a better candidate for the job: Beast Mtawarira.
The 32-year-old Springbok stalwart will appear in his 150th match in Saturday’s quarterfinal against the Crusaders in Christchurch.
And his penchant for putting deeds before words should make the defending champions take note.
“He’s very keen to play and celebrate this milestone in the best possible way,” said Sharks coach Robert du Preez on Thursday.
“He’s really been fantastic this year for us. I know everyone is aware of his great track record and he’s got unbelievable leadership skills. But the key has been that he’s been playing great rugby this season.”
The Sharks have – interestingly given how the rest of the local franchises have struggled – beaten three Kiwi sides and lost to the Hurricanes by a point in this campaign.
That clearly illustrates that the Du Preez and his troops have a workable template against the standard-bearers of the tournament.
Even if that blueprint is based on sound defence, competing up front and pouncing on the counter-attack, the Sharks don’t want to be negative.
“The guys like playing against New Zealand teams, it seems to bring out the best in them,” said Du Preez.
“For us, we have to make sure that we don’t just go out and try to defend. We need to get our hands on the ball. We need to go and attack. We have absolutely nothing to lose and we’re going to do just that.
“It’s formidable opponents we face but this is a once-off game.”
Sharks: Curwin Bosch, Kobus van Wyk, Lukhanyo Am, Andre Esterhuizen, Lwazi Mvovo, Robert du Preez jnr, Louis Schreuder, Dan du Preez, Jacques Vermeulen, Philip van der Walt, Ruan Botha (c), Tyler Paul, Thomas du Toit, Akker van der Merwe, Beast Mtawarira. Bench: Chiliboy Ralepelle, Juan Schoeman, John-Hubert Meyer, Hyron Andrews, Wian Vosloo, Cameron Wright, Marius Louw, Makazole Mapimpi.