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Sharks centre Lukhanyo Am during the United Rugby Championship match against Connacht at Kings Park on November 18. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/STEVE HAAG SPORTS
Sharks centre Lukhanyo Am during the United Rugby Championship match against Connacht at Kings Park on November 18. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/STEVE HAAG SPORTS

The Sharks will quickly get the knack of the rugby style new coach John Plumtree wants them to play and they will be one of the most dangerous sides in the United Rugby Championship (URC).   

That is the view of Sharks and Springbok World Cup-winning centre Lukhanyo Am, who spoke to media as the Durban-based franchise battles to register its first win of the URC season.   

“Once we get individuals to sharpen up and execute the style of rugby we want to play we will be very dangerous,” Am said.

Everyone has bought into the style of play they are adopting and he is convinced they are heading in the right direction despite their early struggles.

The Sharks’ pursuit of glory has had a tough start under respected coach Plumtree, losing all five matches to prop up the table before their match against Welsh side Dragons at Kings Park on Saturday (7.05pm).    

Am played his first match since his injury in August in Saturday’s 13-12 defeat to Connacht. He was part of the World Cup-winning Boks in France after he joined them as a late replacement for the injured Makazole Mapimpi, but did not play.    

The Sharks’ performances, especially against Connacht, have given an indication of how they want to play under Plumtree.    The coach has said he will not have his team going back to “kicking the ball away” and hoping to cross the whitewash by luck. The plan is to build pressure with the ball.

Changing the style the Sharks have played for the past 10 years won’t be easy. Against Connacht, they enjoyed a lot of possession and approached their opponent’s 22 with threat and promise. Lack of ruthlessness and niggling errors have been the main cause of their lack of success.   

“It was one of those frustrating games [against Connacht],” Am said. “We felt in control for most of the game and we displayed and kind of executed what we wanted to execute.   

“It’s [about] finishing those final moments. That was the story of the game — we took control and whenever we had the ball in hand we looked dangerous. We are just not converting the opportunities we create.”   

While it’s still early to rule out a top eight finish for the Sharks for a place in the URC quarterfinals and Champions Cup for next season, five consecutive losses make it tough to finish in the top four. That means they will have to travel for the knockout games.   

Am remains confident the Durban team can turn around their season and push for the URC title.   

“It’s the beginning of the season. [It] only ends in May or June, so we still have quite some time to sharpen up things and catch up. It happened in the past with Munster and the Stormers.   

“It’s still early for us to throw it in. We are working towards something bigger than us and we are looking forward to the rest of the season.   

“We are [going] in the right direction and it’s about time where we will get the results because we are a growing team and we are a learning team.” 

Saturday’s game against the Dragons, who are in a similar situation to the Sharks, has become a must-win clash for the Durbanites.   

“It’s another one at home and we’ve got certain players back from national team duties and showing experience to the rest of the group,” Am said. “We are in the right space, looking forward to and excited for this game.”   

Before their victory against Ospreys at the weekend, Dragons went four matches without victory and will be eager to get another against the Sharks.

That won’t be easy as the Sharks look set to welcome more Boks back. Ox Nche, Eben Etzebeth, Grant Williams, Jaden Hendrikse and Mapimpi have been training with the team this week.


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