Former All Blacks inside centre Sam Tuitupou has identified Sale Sharks’ improved defence as the key behind their strong campaign.
Sale managed to hold a struggling Worcester Warriors side to just 12 points in their 12-24 away victory at the weekend, despite the home side having the majority of possession.
Sharks came away with four points from Sixways on Saturday after Mark Cueto marked his 200th appearance for the club with an early try.
Looking ahead to their next match, a trip to London Wasps, Tuitupou believes that Sharks’ defensive solidity will be crucial if they are to record another victory.
The 32-year-old said: “Our defence is the key, it has showed up till now that we have got a good system going and we need to maintain this as Wasps are a good attacking team and if we shut them down and apply pressure on attack I am confident we can come through with a win.
“But it is always a hard place to get a win – if we get a win this weekend it will be huge for us.”
Wasps currently sit five points behind Sale, with Tuitupou well aware that Saturday’s clash could give Sharks some breathing room going into the break.
“It is definitely a key game, it takes a bit of pressure of us if we win the game as they are in seventh position,” added the New Zealand native.
“Going into the break knowing we are secure in sixth position gives us a great opportunity to kick on.”
Wasps are currently mired in a three-game losing streak, though Tuiputou is wary of facing a side who will be desperate to avoid another defeat.
“It is always good to play a team that has a few losses, but at the same time they will be a lot hungrier than most teams because they are looking for a win,” he said.
Sale have been rejuvenated this season under manager Steve Diamond, and Tuitupou believes that the atmosphere in the dressing room has helped performances on the pitch.
“Morale is great,” he said. “It’s good to come in and everyone is smiling and everyone has a good buzz.”
The experienced campaigner was proud of Shark’s performance against the Warriors, which came as a welcome boost after a close defeat against high-flying Saracens.
“We targeted Worcester as a crucial game for us to get a win,” said Tuitupou. “We were obviously disappointed after losing the week before but we knew we had to bounce back and that is what the best teams do.”
Sharks veteran David Seymour also believes that the team’s significant improvement on the road this season is down to learning from their mistakes.
“Our away form has been pretty good so far,” said the 29-year-old.
“We started off the season with a great away win at Gloucester and it doesn’t get much better than that.
“Also, picking up a win in Newcastle for the first time in 10 years or so and to get the four points again at the weekend is great. I think we can be really happy.”
However, with plenty of rugby still left to play Seymour is keeping his feet firmly on the ground as his side make a push for the European places.
“Obviously top four would be nice but it’s a tough place to get to,” he said. “If we can get top six that would be a great result and we have come on from last year and taken a step forward.
“But we will be taking every game as it comes and we have a big challenge coming up at the weekend.”
Picture courtesy of Sky Sports via YouTube, with thanks