THE COMPLETE line-up for the Super Rugby quarter-finals will only be decided after the very last match of this weekend’s final round of the competition, when the Sharks host the Lions, and one of the fascinating permutations is that it could be in the Sharks’ interests to lose the match.
And with the Durban encounter being the last fixture, both teams will know exactly what is at stake.
According to backs coach Sean Everett, the Sharks’ approach to the game is to ignore permutations and to give it the horns against the Lions in a bid to establish some form and momentum ahead of the quarters. The last time the Sharks played, they lost to the Bulls in Durban in a disappointing performance.
“It was not ideal for us to have a bye after one match (the Bulls) having just had a month off (for the June internationals), so our focus in this match is very much on performance so that we have some form going into the quarters,” Everett said. “We want to play well and get back to winning ways. That is what this game is about, regardless of results earlier in the day.”
Coach Robert du Preez will have added options when he selects his team because of the return to fitness of wings Lwazi Mvovo and Kobus van Wyk. The Sharks are just about at full strength, the absentees being Tendai Mtawarira (neck) and Ruan Botha (suspended).
Everett said the Sharks players are eager for battle this week against the form South African team.
“The Lions are coming to Durban with a must-win attitude, so we know what to expect from them and we will be up for it,” Everett said.
“They are certainly setting the benchmark ... We want to measure ourselves against the best, and the players got stuck in at training last week. There is no need to talk about motivation! We had some really good sessions in trying to rectify where we went wrong against the Bulls,” he said.
After that shock loss, a miffed Du Preez said there had been a lack of urgency in his team’s performance.
“The players have certainly been reminded that there is consequence for lack of effort. Our problem this whole year has been consistency. We play against weaker opposition and struggle, then play top teams and win. The youngsters have to understand that there truly is no easy game and we can’t come out of the blocks slowly, no matter who we are playing,” Everett said. STORMERS forwards coach Russell Winter says the Bulls will pose the perfect challenge for a Stormers side eager to get their quarter-final preparations right.
The Stormers will travel to Loftus for the last group-stage game on Saturday before they host either the Hurricanes or the Chiefs at Newlands the following week. And although it has been a rough season for Nollis Marais and his team, Winter said that they were still expecting their old rivals to “bring it”.