Double-header a rehearsal for what’s to come
With a place in next weekend’s final four already booked, the Southland Sharks will use this weekend’s mainland road trip as a chance to fine tune their game.
The Zero Fees-sponsored Sharks take on the Nelson Giants in Nelson tonight, followed by the Canterbury Rams in Christchurch tomorrow.
Both games have their own challenges attached to them, despite effectively being dead rubbers.
Tall Blacks legend Phill Jones will sign off on an NBL career which began with the Giants back in 1993, while the Rams will be playing the last game of their long-anticipated return to the competition.
‘‘Both games this weekend have special things going on,’’ Sharks coach Paul Henare said.
‘‘It’s Phill’s last game in Nelson – I imagine the whole place is going to be rocking and the team is going to be pumped, it’s going to be pretty much like a semifinal game for us. On Saturday, coming into a gym where they are starting to hit some form and it’s their last game of the season, they are talking about a soldout crowd. It’s another pressure cooker situation. For me, that’s perfect rehearsal for what’s to come.’’
The Sharks have undoubtedly got both eyes on the defence of their NBL title in Wellington, but would prefer to carry some momentum with them to the capital.
‘‘We are really just going to focus on ourselves, to be perfectly honest,’’ Henare said of the team’s plans this weekend.
‘‘It’s a chance for us, without the pressure of actually having to win the game, to try out a few things offensively and defensively that we’ve been working on the last few weeks, and fine tune going into finals weekend.
‘‘I’ve sent a clear message to my guys that by no means does that mean we are going in not trying to win these games; I guess the luxury we have is we can limit some of the guys’ minutes through rest and give other guys an opportunity – especially a guy like Dan Peck, who hasn’t had many minutes this year.’’
The Sharks’ main concern is around getting their best players healthy.
Brian Conklin’s dodgy ankle has improved, but Luke Martin missed a training this week with a foot problem.
‘‘Brian seems to have recovered. I wouldn’t say he’s at 100 per cent, he’s been playing through a lot of pain with the ankle the last couple of weeks,’’ Henare said.
‘‘We’ll look to manage his minutes, along with Kevin Braswell, who has played close to 40 minutes in every game through the circumstances of guys being unavailable. We want to be peaking next Friday night against whoever we are playing against.’’
Tonight: 7pm v Nelson Giants, Nelson
Tomorrow: 7pm v Canterbury Rams, Christchurch
Go to www.southlandtimes.co.nz for reports.
The Southland Times