Sharks have won the mental battle

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Sharks_NZ1 Steve Haag Gallo Images The Sharks believe they can beat the Reds at the Suncorp Stadium.

Since moving from their spiritual home at the Ballymore Stadium three seasons ago, the Reds have lost just four times at their new home at the much bigger Suncorp Stadium.

Furthermore, one of their 21 wins there was the ground-breaking victory over the Crusaders in last year’s final.

The Sharks, their opponents on Saturday in the second Super Rugby play-off – the Bulls are earlier in the day against the Crusaders – will not care less.

The Reds might have sneaked into the play-offs last week when the Brumbies fluffed their lines at home against the Blues, but they will feed off the simple fact of being alive when they seemed so long to be dead.

And the Queenslanders will be reassured by the fact that they know how to win play-offs in Super Rugby.

The Sharks, though, have a genuine belief that they can beat the Reds, just as they would have had a sub-conscious belief that they could not beat the Crusaders, had that been how it worked out.

The Sharks would have been beaten before they got on the plane to beat the Crusaders, who hammered them this time last year. You just had that feeling because of the way they were buoyed by the news after the Bulls game last weekend that they were in fact going to Brisbane and not to Christchurch.

Let’s face it. This game is largely in the mind. If the Sharks believe they can beat the Reds in Brisbane but not the Crusaders in Christchurch, then half the battle is over.

Just like they will believe they can beat the Stormers next week in Cape Town should they be successful against the Reds.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves…

Moving on from mind games, a more tangible reason to believe the Sharks can win is the composition of the pack of forwards they have picked, which is arguably the strongest pack they have fielded this year.

And there is quality back-up on the bench.

With The Beast over the gastro business that prevented him from playing against the Cheetahs, the Sharks have the all-Springbok front row that prevailed over England and made mincemeat of the Bulls a fortnight ago.

Bismarck du Plessis has shrugged off his knee problem and he will scrum down with brother Jannie at tighthead and Mtawarira at loosehead. Behind them in the second row is a beefy combination of the fast-improving Anton Bresler and the colossal Willem Alberts.

It is a very impressive tight five and there is every reason to believe the Sharks can impose themselves in the set pieces.

The back row is equally exciting.

Ryan Kankowski at No 8 is playing great rugby and is clearly out to prove a point after having been benched for a month after coming back from a broken thumb, while Marcell Coetzee and Keegan Daniel have been consistently brilliant all season.

There is good back-up on the bench in Steven Sykes, himself back from injury, as is Jacques Botes.

Sharks: Louis Ludik, JP Pietersen, Paul Jordaan, Tim Whitehead, Lwazi Mvovo, Frederic Michalak, Charl McLeod; Ryan Kankowski, Marcell Coetzee, Keegan Daniel (captain), Anton Bresler, Willem Alberts, Jannie du Plessis, Bismarck du Plessis, Beast Mtawarira. Replacements: Craig Burden, Wiehahn Herbst, Steven Sykes, Jacques Botes, Cobus Reinach, Meyer Bosman, Odwa Ndungane.

Reds: TBA

Tomorrow: Reds v Sharks (11,40am)

Refereee: Jonathan Kaplan (RSA)

TV: SS1/SSHD2/M-Net

Sharks in Super Rugby play-offs

Played: 10 Won: 3 (all semi-finals).

Lost: 7 (3 finals, 3 semi-finals and 1 qualifier)

Reds in Super Rugby play-offs

Played: 5. Won: 2 (1 final, 1 semi-final). Lost: 3 (all semi-finals)

Reds v Sharks in play-offs: May 18 1996: Sharks (Natal) won 43-25 in Brisbane (semi-final)

 

Sharks in 2012

R1: lost to Bulls 13-18 (Pretoria)

R2: lost to Stormers 12-15 (Cape Town)

R3: bt Lions 32-20 (Durban)

R4: bt Reds 27-22 (Durban)

R5: lost to Waratahs 30-34 (Sydney)

R6: bt Brumbies 29-26 (Canberra)

R7: lost to Hurricanes 18-42 (Wellington)

R8: bt Blues 29-23 (Auckland)

R9: lost to Chiefs 12-18 (Durban)

R10: bye

R11: bt Highlanders 28-16 (Durban)

R12: bt Force 53-11 (Durban)

R13: bt Cheetahs 34-20 (Bloemfontein)

R14: bt Stormers 25-20 (Durban)

R15: lost to Lions 28-38 (Joburg)

R16: bye

R17: bt Bulls 32-10 (Durban)

R18: bt Cheetahs 34-15 (Durban)

 

Reds in 2012

R1: bt Waratahs 25-21 (Sydney)

R2: bt Force 35-20 (Brisbane)

R3: bt Rebels 11-6 (Brisbane)

R4: lost to Sharks 22-27 (Durban)

R5: lost to Bulls 8-61 (Pretoria)

R6: lost to Force 19-45 (Perth)

R7: bt Brumbies 20-13 (Brisbane)

R8: bye

R9: lost to Stormers 13-23 (Brisbane)

R10: bt Blues 23-11 (Auckland)

R11: lost to Crusaders 11-15 (Christchurch)

R12: bt Chiefs 42-27 (Brisbane)

R13: bt Lions 34-20 (Brisbane)

R14: bt Brumbies 13-12 (Canberra)

R15: bye

R16: bt Rebels 32-17 (Melbourne)

R17: bt Highlanders 19-13 (Brisbane)

R18: bt Waratahs 32-16 (Brisbane)

 

Head to head (since 1998)

Reds Sharks

5 Won 3

0 Drawn 0

196 Points for 158

20 Tries scored 16 – The Mercury



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