Champions Cup: Neil Powell calls for improvement from Sharks players against Bordeaux-Begles

David Skippers
Sharks players v Leinster URC 2022 - PA.jpg

Although Sharks director of rugby Neil Powell is happy with his team’s performance in their Champions Cup victory over Harlequins last week, he is looking for an improved display against Bordeaux-Begles on Friday night.

Powell took over the coaching reins after head coach Sean Everitt resigned following a 35-0 home defeat to Cardiff in the United Rugby Championship (URC) at the end of last month.

Since then they bounced back with a 25-10 win over the Ospreys in the URC and that 39-31 bonus-point triumph over Quins.

Looking for improvement

Powell believes the win over the Premiership outfit was his team’s “best performance so far this season” but despite starting their Champions Cup campaign in style, he is still looking for improvement against Bordeaux.

“It was our best performance so far this season, we were fully in control at 32-14, but then the cards made it challenging,” he told the Citizen.

“We showed amazing character to hold on with 13 men for 10 minutes and for seven minutes with 14 players.

“But we do want to improve. Maybe we could be a bit more physical and dominant in the tackle area, and that’s definitely going to be important against Bordeaux.

“We kicked pretty well last weekend, but we have to make sure we stick to our plan in terms of the kicking game, we will have to adapt the plan against Harlequins a bit because Bordeaux kick more long balls than contestables.

“It’s about looking at who the opposition are and the weather forecast, and working out how we want to play. We need to adapt week-to-week, but it’s not about changing the whole game-plan, just doing one or two things a bit differently.”

The Sharks rely heavily on disrupting their opponents’ set-pieces, and despite losing Springbok loosehead prop Ox Nche to a three-week suspension, after he was sent off against Quins, they’ve been boosted by the return of tighthead Thomas du Toit, who returns after serving his ban picked up on Bok duty.

“It’s going to be important that we have a strong scrum against Bordeaux, that could be one area for us to target,” added Powell.

“It’s a pity Ox is not available because he adds a lot, but we all believe in Ntuthuko Mchunu and it’s a great opportunity for him.”

The Durban-based outfit have been boosted by the return of seasoned their first choice captain and seasoned Bok centre Lukhanyo Am, who has been named amongst the replacements after recovering from a knee injury.

X-factor player

“It’s important to get Luke back on the field and give him a fair bit of time off the bench. He’s a quality player with x-factor who can create opportunities out of nothing,” Powell said.

“He might be a bit rusty, but I am keen to see what sort of form he is in and hopefully he enjoys his 20 minutes or so off the bench.”

READ MORE: Lukhanyo Am: Star centre’s return music to the ears of Sharks and Springboks fans