Sharks talking up Hurricanes ahead of match
The much-hyped Sharks are talking up the Hurricanes as Mark Hammett's side look to shake their under-achievers' tag with a difficult opening Super Rugby assignment in Durban on Sunday.
The Sharks, with World Cup-winning coach Jake White back in charge of a squad full of Springboks, put an early mark in the sand of the beachside city with their 31-16 demolition of Super Rugby powerhouse the Bulls last weekend.
They are expecting a much different assignment against the Hurricanes.
"They are a typical New Zealand side and can run it from anywhere. It is different challenge and one we look forward to," massive Sharks loose forward Willem Alberts said.
"They a very different side to the Bulls who are very structured and kick a lot."
The Durban heat at this time of the year is a factor and the high humidity has a habit of affecting ball handling there early in the season.
Alberts believes that could affect the pace of the game, acknowledging the Hurricanes' liking for an open approach with their traditional strikepower out wide.
"They have a couple of All Blacks that have been their star players, Julian Savea out in the wing.
"With the ball so slippery it might not be that quick but certainly a different pace to the Bulls game."
With the Stormers in Cape Town to follow, this is a very difficult start for the Hurricanes who will then have to travel home and face the Brumbies in Wellington on their return.
They could be quickly in a game of catchup on the points table of they can't produce something special in South Africa where they are operating a back row shorn of talent because of injuries to Victor Vito and Brad Shields.
That's a huge handicap against the massive South African packs.
A lot of the preseason focus in South Africa fell on the Sharks, mainly because they managed to bring White back to the republic from his brief but promising stint with the Brumbies.
"There have been a lot of changes, we have worked really hard. It is still early season and we will see as the season develops how the training affects our game. Rugby-wise there has been a lot more detail added to our game which is really going to help us," Alberts said of White's approach.
"Every season we start with belief that we can win but this year we have a particularly good side and we reckon we can do it."
Yesterday the Sharks bolstered their squad further with confirmation that South African-born England prop Matt Stevens had been signed from English club Saracens on a two-year deal.
But Stevens' return has been delayed till August, meaning he won't play Super Rugby, instead he will be join the Sharks for the Currie Cup, helping their depth at a time when their Springboks will be away on international duties,.
"Matt has a burning desire to be a part of our Currie Cup campaign and is a great signing for us," White said in a statement.
"With our front row being unavailable during the latter part of the year, due to Springbok commitments, Matt's experience and knowledge will prove invaluable and the youngsters in our squad can take confidence from having a senior guy in the front row."
HOW THEY LINE UP
Hurricanes: Marty Banks, Cory Jane, Conrad Smith (c), Hadleigh Parkes, Julian Savea, Beauden Barrett, TJ Perenara, Blade Thomson, Jack Lam, Faifili Levave, Mark Abbott, Jeremy Thrush, Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, Dane Coles, Ben Franks. Reserves: Motu Matu'u, Chris Eves, John Schwalger, Mark Reddish, Adam Hill, Chris Smylie, Alapati Leiua, James Marshall.