United Rugby Championship: Sharks turn attention to Stormers after Ulster defeat

David Skippers
Neil Powell Sharks director of rugby 2023 - PA.jpg United Rugby Championship

Sharks director of rugby Neil Powell is fully focused on returning to winning ways when they face the Stormers in their United Rugby Championship (URC) derby in Cape Town on Saturday.

The men from Durban are currently in seventh position in the URC standings and know that they can ill afford another defeat against the defending champions, who are in second spot.

Facing a tough challenge

Powell expects a tough assignment against their hosts, who sealed a convincing 46-19 victory over the Sharks when the sides met in the corresponding fixture in Durban earlier this month.

“The Stormers are a really good team and there’s a reason why they’re second on the log,” he told the Sharks’ official website. “They play a good brand of rugby and a holistic style, so you have to be accurate in all areas of the game if you don’t want to get punished.

“We’ll have to make sure the plan we have for them is a really good one because they’re a well-coached team, they have threats everywhere, and we have to make sure we are good in all areas of the game.

“We can’t only be good in one area, because they will punish any weaknesses.”

The Sharks head into this weekend’s clash after suffering a disappointing 31-24 loss against Ulster in Durban on Saturday and Powell admitted to having mixed emotions over that result.

“It was a disappointing outcome,” he remarked afterwards, following the outcome.

“We were really hoping to get at least four points from this game, but at times we let ourselves down with individual inaccuracies. We’d score points, but on the kick receipt, we couldn’t remove the pressure, which put us further under pressure.

“That first 15 minute was the way we wanted to play Ulster, and then unfortunately, after that water break it felt like we lost a bit of momentum. We gave them too many opportunities to maul inside our 22, and that was due to us not being clinical enough in the way we wanted to exit.”

Absorbing maul pressure crucial

Powell believes the Sharks’ ability to absorb maul pressure was a big factor in their loss to Ulster and said it’s a facet of play which they will have to fix.

“When a team scores three maul tries, you feel exposed, and that’s something we need to get right,” he explained.

“It’s no use saying every week that we’ll work on it, because the maul challenge is one that will come every weekend and it’s something we need to get right every single game.”

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