The Sharks have acknowledged that accurate decision-making will be crucial to their cause in Saturday’s semi-final against the strengthened Golden Lions, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
When the Sharks faced the Lions earlier this season, the Durban-based side claimed a comfortable 37-21 win that set them firmly on track for a home semi-final.
However, the Lions are set to be a very different prospect due to the availability of Springboks Elton Jantjies, Aphiwe Dyantyi, Warren Whiteley and Franco Mostert, who could all very well feature at Kings Park this Saturday.
The Sharks have also recently been boosted by the return of S’bu Nkosi, Coenie Oosthuizen and Jean-Luc du Preez, and will remain favourites heading into the rematch against the Lions.
Sharks assistant coach Dick Muir told SARugbymag.co.za that there would be an extra edge to this match-up.
‘It’s a knockout clash, and there’s no second chance, but we want the players to feel confident enough to express themselves and make the most of a massive opportunity against a dangerous animal.
‘It’s the sort of game where leadership will be really important, and we’ve got a few young players who will be experiencing their first semi-final. So that will bring an added edge, and it will be important that they make the right decisions. We’ll need to have our wits about us.’
Although the Sharks have dropped just a solitary game on the way to the knockout phase of the competition, Muir said it had been a ‘frustrating season at times’.
‘Our consistency has been a bit up and down, and we know we probably still haven’t produced a complete 80-minute performance as yet. There’s certainly lots we’ve been working on, but there’s a great opportunity now in an important semi-final.’
The Sharks will be hoping to book a place in next weekend’s title decider before turning their attention to the later game between Western Province and the Blue Bulls in Cape Town on Saturday evening.
Although undefeated Western Province are expected to comfortably secure a home final, Muir said there could be no guarantees in a knockout clash.
‘Playoff games are a different beast. There is no doubt that Western Province are the form team and have scored a lot of tries, but they also haven’t really been put under all that much pressure this season. So it will be interesting to see how they react to that if it happens in a knockout game.’
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