Coach Robert du Preez says the Sharks must find ways to pressure Western Province in a similar fashion to what the Blue Bulls managed to do in the semi-final.
Although Province pulled off a comfortable 34-7 win in the final league game against the Bulls in a contest reduced to just 40 minutes, it was a very different story when the two teams met just a week later.
Not only did the Bulls produce a much-improved scrum performance, but they also targeted the Western Province lineout to good effect, while also disrupting the WP attack with impressive linespeed on defence.
It was really the first time this season that Province have been put under proper scoreboard pressure, and they did look a bit rattled for large parts of the semi-final, before eventually mustering a hard-fought win in extra-time.
Chatting to the media at the Sharks’ team announcement press conference on Thursday, Du Preez said they had taken note of last weekend’s semi-final at Newlands.
‘You have to put Western Province under pressure, they don’t like that … The [semi-final] game for me showed that you can’t underestimate anyone. The previous week the Bulls were down and out by half-time, but then they came back and produced a fantastic performance and were unlucky to lose in the end.
‘But it all has to be about us now … and the good thing is that there is a great spirit in the team, which will stand us in good stead in the final.’
Du Preez also acknowledged that the 20 minutes of extra-time could have an effect on Province in the final.
‘They have played an extra 20 minutes, and were stressed for that extra-time, and they were also playing in the later game [last Saturday]. It will all come down to those one percenters [in the final].
‘Playing at home, there is always a lot of pressure on you, but we’re just grateful to be in the final, and it now comes down to how you perform on the day.’
Du Preez also touched on the Sharks’ selection changes that see Jean-Luc du Preez named to start at flank, while Tyler Paul shifts to No 6. In the backline, Aphelele Fassi replaces the injured Lwazi Mvovo.
‘Tyler has had an unbelievable season, and he’s a great guy to have in the team, he does a lot of the unseen hard work,’ Du Preez commented. ‘It’s also good to have Jean-Luc back in the mix, we know it’s going to be an abrasive battle, so that’s why we selected him.
‘He [Fassi] has had a great season too, and hopefully this will be the cherry on top. It’s unfortunate that Lwazi didn’t make it, but Fassi is a more-than-capable replacement.’
— SA Rugby magazine (@SARugbymag) October 22, 2018
Photo: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images