Mon, 08 Mar 2021

  • The Sharks have started training for their preparation matches, starting this weekend against Griquas, ahead of the European-flavoured Rainbow Cup.
  • Sharks front-rower Ox Nche believes mental preparation will be vital for the new excursion up north.
  • The Sharks ended their promising 2020/21 season on a disappointing note but want to make their mark in Europe.

After their hugely promising 2020/21 season petered out with a Currie Cup final defeat, the Sharks are sharpening their teeth for what's expected to be a testing Rainbow Cup entree against PRO12 Northern Hemisphere sides.

This weekend's preparation matches will serve as the precursor to the Rainbow Cup, SA Rugby's attempt to get their "Big Four" franchises in fighting shape ahead of their trip north.

READ | Mziwakhe Nkosi handed Lions coaching reins for preparation matches

Sharks front-rower Ox Nche, who returned to training for the first time on Tuesday since 30 January's 26-19 loss to the Bulls, said the three-week break was great for the body.

However, he pointed out that mental preparation would be vital ahead of what's likely to be a gruelling trip to Europe.

"Mental prep is everything," said Nche.

"You can get a guy that's out of condition but, if he's prepared mentally, he will do whatever it takes.

"So, I think the mental side will be the most important and it starts today (Tuesday), telling ourselves that we want to be the best team out there.

"The body feels well-rested, which means the rest was enough, and it feels good to be out there running again. The rest was well-needed.

"I'm part of the conditioning group and that means I do running, gym work and the aspects of my game that I need to work on individually."

This year will mark South Africa's first year out of Super Rugby in 25 years of the iconic competition, after SA Rugby confirmed the country's exit late last year.

The feelers that the Cheetahs and Southern Kings put out during the three seasons they were part of the PRO14 indicated that it's going to be a tough competition for the Sharks, Bulls, Lions and Stormers.

Italy-bound Cheetahs fullback Rhyno Smith recently told Sport24 competing in the "PRO16" would prove tougher than Super Rugby, largely because of the dramatic difference in climate.

But Nche said the Sharks, who beefed up their squad with Siya Kolisi's acquisition, wanted to make their mark in the Rainbow Cup.

"The aim is always to get better as rugby players and to trust the process as a team. We want to grow as a team and that applies to the entire squad," Nche said.

"We obviously want to win but the process is more important than the result.

"We want to make sure that our set-piece is unstoppable. We have to start dominating set-pieces and do all the basic things well, so that by the time we get to the competition we are ready.

"European teams have good structures and plans, and they do their basics well.

"If we can match that plus we bring what we have as a team, I think we'll do absolutely well.

"We just need consistency in following our game plan and structures. That will give us a good platform.

"The aim is to make our mark come PRO16. We were in day one of full-on practice and from today (Tuesday) we are preparing to make our mark in that competition."

Source: News24

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