Sharks coach Sean Everitt says his side is fully aware of the importance of Wednesday’s match against the British & Irish Lions to the national cause and won’t be naive in their approach. DYLAN JACK reports.
The Sharks will take on the British & Irish Lions in the second match of the 2021 tour at Ellis Park on Wednesday evening.
The B&I Lions started their tour with a comfortable 56-14 dismantling of the Golden Lions this past Saturday, during which they put eight tries past the home team.
Following Saturday’s match, British & Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland expressed his concern that his team wouldn’t face tough enough opposition before their three-Test series against the Springboks later this month.
However, speaking in the buildup to Wednesday’s match, Everitt said the Sharks are well aware of the intensity they will be facing and are keen to step up to the challenge.
“It’s a massive challenge for us,” Everitt said. “They are the best in the UK and Ireland. So, they are a massive team and one with a lot of top-class individuals. It’s a great challenge for our guys to measure how far they are away from international rugby.
“We learned a lot from their recent game against the Golden Lions and we know we have to be ready for this game and switched on at all times. They do play at a high intensity and they do look to speed the game up. It’s something we have been working on in South African rugby, but we aren’t quite there yet.
“The local Lions team probably wasn’t aware of what an international team could bring. Likewise with the Sharks, we are inexperienced, but we know what’s coming our way. We definitely are going to take the game to the Lions. Our guys have prepared really well and are focused on the job at hand.
“Although these games aren’t for any log or league points, they are really important to the South African cause. I know our guys will be up for the challenge. It’s a matter of keeping it up for 80 minutes and that’s why we’ve gone for a six-two split on the bench.”
During Monday’s online media conference, Everitt was asked about the Johannesburg Lions’ approach against the B&I Lions, which tended to rely on a moment of individual brilliance, rather than a strong team effort.
“Our focus is always on team first,” Everitt answered. “Any guy that goes off programme in a game of this stature will pay the consequences on the field and in the game. Everything has to be team focused. We know that we need all 23 players to be able to achieve peak team performance. In saying that, I don’t think any of our own individuals will go on their own programme. It’s going to be a massive team effort for us and that’s what we have focused on in our preparation.
“From a team point of view, we are a proud rugby nation and we don’t want to just be rolled over by teams week in and week out. The Sharks now have an opportunity to improve on the Lions’ performance from the weekend. We will grab that opportunity with both hands. At the same time, if the team performs well, individuals will be putting their hands up for national selection.
“We need to manage the game well within our own half,” Everitt added. “We can’t just play rugby and throw the ball around and expect things to happen. We have to make sure that we are accurate and execute well.”
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