The Sharks' kicking game and defence will determine whether they beat the Highlanders in Saturday's qualifier play-off, according to scrumhalf Charl McLeod.
The Highlanders suffered heavy defeats in their last two matches of the league season, to the Waratahs and Crusaders, but will believe they can progress to the semi-finals having beaten the Sharks 34-18 in Durban in April.
The Sharks have studied that game this week in a bid to avoid a repeat.
'We have worked on what let us down last time,' said McLeod. 'Our kicking game and defence just wasn't on song and that tripped us up.
'The main thing was that our kicking game just wasn't accurate enough. The Highlanders have players who can punish you if you kick poorly. In that game we just didn't get out of our half and just gave them too many opportunities to counterattack. They love broken play and we are going to have to keep away from that and limit their opportunities in this match.'
The Sharks' season faltered when they lost to the Stormers at home in late May and the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein when the tournament resumed, but they got back to winning ways against the Stormers at Newlands last Saturday.
'We went a bit away from our template in the recent matches and that was why we struggled,' McLeod said. 'We went back to it in the Stormers game and we saw the difference we made. It was all about solid defence, the forwards working hard, better kicking and better kick and chase.
'We have been playing knockout rugby from the first game. We went away from that and it was why we fell away a bit, but now we are back to that and we have the belief that it can take us all the way.'
Meanwhile, Sharks captain Bismarck du Plessis said his side had to focus on the breakdown and maintaining their discipline against the Highlanders.
'We need to be very hard at the breakdown and we can't be giving them easy penalties. I can remember that Lima Sopoaga was accurate from the tee that day.
'Their forwards were very physical and they dominated us in the tight-loose. We have to be up for the challenge and we basically have to put our mark of authority.'
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