Sonny Bill Williams in sights of the Sharks

DUNCAN JOHNSTONE
Last updated 12:26 19/04/2012
Sonny Bill Williams
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SMILING ASSASSIN: Chiefs star Sonny Bill Williams has the Sharks worried ahead of their Super Rugby match in Durban.

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The Sharks believe Sonny Bill Williams is central to the Chiefs' remarkable Super Rugby revival and intend giving him extra attention in their match this weekend in Durban.

Some slick coaching from Dave Rennie and Wayne Smith look to be the real reason why the Chiefs sit top of both the New Zealand conference and the overall table after eight weeks.

But there's no denying Williams is in strong form in the No 12 jersey, arguably the form second five in New Zealand if not the championship.

The coaches have quickly moulded a new-look squad into a highly competitive outfit and the central backline axis of All Blacks Aaron Cruden, Williams and Richard Kahui has been central to both their improved defensive game and their attacking potency.

It's a formula that the Sharks are certainly wary off. John Plumtree's side got their season back on track with a scratchy win over the Blues at Eden Park last Friday night but they face the tough assignment of fronting up to the Chiefs on the back of the long trek back from New Zealand.

Plumtree has vivid memories of Williams tormenting his team when he played them last year in a Crusaders jersey in London.

He suspects the Chiefs are purposely getting Williams more involved in their plays, realising that a busy Williams means things are always happening.

"The Chiefs base a lot of their play around Sonny Bill, and a lot of the launch is done around him," the Sharks coach said in his buildup media appearance in Durban.

"He's playing very direct rugby, he's a big guy, a big, big guy, as big as a forward, and he's in really good form and obviously enjoying his role. So we are going to have to look after him and watch him particularly closely. The Chiefs have a lot of X-factor in their team, but teams have a catalyst that they use to get them across the advantage line, and he provides that with his power."

Plumtree was rich in his praise for the Chiefs and felt they had made a number of gains in several areas. They were also benefitting from consistent selections, having settle don their favoured side in the wake of their first round injury disasters.

"This is not a Chiefs team like the Chiefs teams of the past, that is for sure," Plumtree said.

 "We know we will have to play really well to beat them, they're a really good side. They are playing certain combinations all the time now, like No 10, No 12 and No 13, and their locks are consistent, and two out of their three loosies play all the time. They rotate their hooker every now and then, but generally there props are fixtures that don't change.

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"The back three plays together more often than not, and I think this consistency in selection has contributed to the confidence with which they are playing.

"In the past the Chiefs used to leak tries and were considered a team with defensive weakness, but this year they have given away fewer tries than any other team in the competition. That's been unheard of in the Chiefs teams of the past - they always scored a lot of tries but also conceded a lot."

With wins against the Western Force and the Cheetahs this has already been a successful tour by the Chiefs. But they will realise they have a strong chance of gaining a rare victory over the Sharks in Durban.

- Stuff

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