Defence coach Kenny Murray says that Glasgow Warriors will be on high alert for assassins ready to fire from deep when the Sharks provide the opposition at Scotstoun this Saturday.
Warriors picked up two bonus points but ultimately came up short in their opening match of this United Rugby Championship season away to Ulster on Friday night, with lapses in their kicking game and a few loose turnovers costing them dearly.
Now, as they look ahead to their first competitive home game of the campaign, Murray has urged the Warriors players to take on board the lessons learned in Belfast or risk another frustrating defeat.
“We conceded four line-breaks in that game [against Ulster] and three of them came from kick-chase, so we’ve just got to be better there in terms of our decision-making on where we’re kicking, and in terms of making sure we are a bit better structured defensively after the first collision,” he said.
“The two key areas with the Sharks are that they are big men with a really strong pack, and where they are really dangerous is with what I would term as assassins – guys who can really hurt you from deep. So, they’ll pick you off if your chase isn’t strong and connected.
“They have real electric players out in the wide channels. Thaakir Abrahams, for example, is a cracking player. If you kick loosely to them, if you turnover the ball cheaply, that’s when they come alive in their attack.
“So, we’ve got to make sure we don’t fuel their attack – and that’s one of the learnings we’ve got to take from last weekend because we probably didn’t kick well enough and allowed Ulster to run back at us too easily.”
Given the importance being attached to Glasgow’s kicking game this weekend, veteran stand-off Duncan Weir’s recovery from a concussion suffered during the first half of the Ulster match will be monitored particularly closely.
“He’s going through his return-to-play protocols at the moment, but he seems to be doing pretty well,” said Murray. “He’ll continue that tomorrow and all things going well he should be okay for the weekend.”
Meanwhile, the Sharks are without their South African internationals for the opening chunk of this new league season because they are on Rugby Championship duty, which is good news as far as Murray is concerned – although he is still expecting a big challenge.
“They are going to come here and be strong,” he insisted. “They lost at the weekend against Munster, but if you look back at it the score-line [42-17] maybe didn’t reflect the game.
“They still have some cracking players. Across the backline, they are very dangerous, irrespective of who they are going to bring in from the Springboks, and up front they are already pretty physical. So, when these guys come back in, they will augment their team and make them stronger, but we’re under no illusions that if we don’t play well this weekend we are going to be in a game.
“And with [Ruan] Pienaar playing for them, he provides a different edge to their game as well. The nines that played in those Currie Cup games were real fast, line-breaking nines but maybe didn’t have the same kicking and organisation that Pienaar brings. He’ll make them better as they go through games as well. We’ve played against him a few times in the past with Ulster.
“It will be interesting to see how they cope with the artificial pitch and what could be a wet and windy afternoon at Scotstoun on Saturday,” he added.
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