The deck chairs have again been shuffled, but the Bond Bull Sharks premier men’s rugby side will travel away with the confidence that they can overcome top of the table University of Queensland in Saturday’s Round Six clash.
“There is a lot of belief in this side. They believe they can win every week regardless of who pulls that jersey on in First Grade,” was coach Grant Anderson’s summation of what is shaping as a physical confrontation for early season advantage.
“There is a strength in the culture that we have developed in this club now. The support the players are giving each other is quite remarkable.”
Anderson is again juggling injuries, one of the most notable this week is quality tight-head prop Salesi Manu, out with a shoulder injury.
However, likely to return from the Qld Reds’ championship winning campaign to fill the Manu void is Zane Nonggorr. Also coming in are vice captain, back rower Dylan Rowe, lock Devon Henson, and outside backs Ronan Kapi and Kupi Ta’ala.
“Zane is obviously a big boost for us, if he gets final Reds clearance,” said Anderson.
“Devon has been out with an injured hamstring. He has a big engine, covers a lot of ground and loves the tough, physical contests.
“Dylan will come back off the bench.
“Ronan is a great example of our pathway system. Former TSS First XV, former Australian schoolboy, who has been playing very well in second grade.
“Kupi will make his First Grade debut. He has been a real standout in second grade and deserves his chance in the Firsts.”
The Bull Sharks are also likely to debut one other top prospect, former Wellington representative tight head prop Josiah Tavita-Metcalfe.
“This weekend’s list is not only an indication of our depth, but also the success of our program,” said Anderson.
“We do a lot of training together, so there is synergy between the squads. Guys coming into the top squad are not having to learn new shapes, new plays, new language. They fit in seamlessly.”
Anderson says that although a win or loss at this stage is not ‘season defining’, there are plenty of very good reasons to return with a UQ scalp.
“Away wins against quality teams are very important,” he said.
“We are hurting after last week’s loss to GPS. We played well against GPS in patches. But, that was a game that got away from us. After reviewing the game on Monday, the attitude of the players changed. They realised how close they were to getting over the top. They have taken a lot of confidence out of it and are really looking forward to challenging UQ.
“There is no doubt that defensively we have to aim up. We have to maintain possession and really pressure them.”
Anderson is looking forward to the matchups, especially in the centre-field – Bond Bull Sharks’ Dan Boardman (captain) and Tautalatasi Tasi against the UQ Red Heavies’ Con Foley and Tom Molloy. The backrow clashes will also be interesting with UQ’s Sam Wallace coming back from Reds’ duties.
After recording just the one win across all six grades last weekend, the Bull Sharks will be keen for a better overall outcome on Saturday.
In the first grade women’s clash both Bond (7th) and UQ (8th) will be desperate to turn their seasons around after recording just the one win apiece to date.
Bond men’s second grade are also in seventh place and face a UQ team that is in top spot after just one loss so far this season.
Men’s third grade has all the hallmarks of a close encounter with both sides so far securing two wins and UQ placed sixth and Bond 7th on the points ladder.
It’s a similar story in Colts 1 with UQ (4th) a bonus point ahead of Bond (5th) with both teams having won three games this year.
Bond’s Colts 2 side are currently 7th, with just the one ‘w’, while UQ are 4th.