Sharks in Currie Cup are still a work in progress

Sharks assistant coach Grant Bashford says that even though the Natal Sharks rugby team lead the Currie Cup standings they are still a work in progress after two rounds of Currie Cup action.


The coastal side are the only unbeaten team in the competition following victories over Western Province and the Lions, and will face the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld this weekend.


“We’re making a lot of mistakes and are not yet perfect, but at least we managed to finish on the right side of the scoreboard in those last two games,” Bashford said on Tuesday.


“There’s a lot of desire in the group and there seems to be a lot of growth every week. Hopefully that will continue this week.”


Their progress can be perceived to be a lot better too, considering that 10 players were called up for Springbok duty in the Rugby Championship, although JP Pietersen withdrew through injury.


That number was extended to 11 this week when hooker Craig Burden was drafted into the Bok set-up as a replacement for another injured player from the union, Bismarck du Plessis.


“We always knew it was going to happen and it’s always a nice opportunity to give the youngsters a go come Currie Cup time,” Bashford said.


“This year has been no different. We always look at it as an opportunity.”


He said that while it was a golden opportunity for Burden to shine, it was not ideal.


“He’s only had around 200-odd minutes during the Super 15 playing behind Bismarck and for him the Currie Cup is where he gets an opportunity to play,” he said.


“Now he’s going on a Bok camp where he’s going to be the third hooker, so he’s probably not going to get much game time.”


Youngster Monde Hadebe, on the bench for the opening two weeks of the Currie Cup, will start the match with either Franco Marais or Allan Dell to be elevated from the Under-21s.


“Monde will certainly start and it’s an excellent chance for him,” Bashford said.


The Sharks have one major injury concern ahead of the weekend, after utility back Meyer Bosman sustained a knee injury and faced a late fitness test.


Flanker Francois Kleinhans is nursing a toe injury, although he was expected to be fit.


Looking ahead to the clash against the Bulls, Bashford said he expected a strong response from the Pretoria outfit after they lost to the Free State Cheetahs at the weekend.


“The Bulls at Loftus are certainly a different kettle of fish,” he said.


“They’ll be hurting from the result in Bloemfontein and we’re expecting a reaction.


“They’re affected like we are with a number of players away with the Boks, so we’re very similar and it’s going to be a huge challenge.”

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