United Rugby Championship: Neil Powell confident Sharks will reach play-offs

David Skippers
Neil Powell Sharks v Bordeaux-Begles Champions Cup 2023 - PA.jpg

Despite his team’s 46-19 United Rugby Championship (URC) defeat at home against the Stormers at the weekend, Sharks director of rugby Neil Powell is confident they can still reach the play-offs.

That loss was the Sharks’ first one at their Kings Park headquarters since Powell took over the coaching reins from former head coach Sean Everitt, who resigned from his position after a 35-0 reversal against Cardiff at the end of November.

Since then, Powell‘s troops won their next four URC matches – against the Ospreys, Lions, Bulls and Edinburgh – before they were comprehensively outplayed in that setback against the Stormers.

Down in eighth

That means the Sharks are currently in eighth position in the standings, although they have a game in hand on the two teams directly above them on the table – Munster and Benetton.

However, with six matches left to play the men from Durban can ill afford another defeat as ninth-placed Edinburgh are just two points behind them on the table.

The Sharks will have to dig deep during their next three fixtures against the Lions in Johannesburg on February 18, Ulster in Durban on February 25 and the Stormers in Cape Town on March 4 as they will be without the services of their Springboks for those matches.

The likes of Siya Kolisi, Eben Etzebeth, Lukhanyo Am, Makazole Mapimpi, Jaden Hendrikse, Ox Nche and Thomas du Toit are being rested as part of the mandatory resting protocols for the Boks which means they will only return to Sharks duty for the round 16 clash with the Scarlets at Parc y Scarlets in Llanelli on March 25.

Powell said they would not be targeting any particular fixture but rather focusing on making progress on an overall basis with regards to the team’s overall standards.

“There is still a long way to go,” said Powell in reference to his side’s six remaining URC games.

Lions clash

He said they are fully focused on their next fixture, against the Lions at Ellis Park next weekend.

“We will have a hard look at ourselves,” he added – and said after some tough training sessions during the early part of this week, his players are currently on a deserved break.

“We will regroup when we come back on Monday [February 13] and prepare for the [encounter with] the Lions.

“We have to be brutally honest with ourselves and ensure we don’t repeat those mistakes.

“However, I do believe we can make the play-offs.”

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