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There has been much conjecture about what the best points scenario will be for the Sharks going into their match against the Cheetahs on Saturday, bearing in mind the other games in the final round of Super Rugby and the team’s position on the log. But the man literally on the ground for the Sharks, captain Keegan Daniel, says the players have the mindset of “going for broke”.
Should the Sharks beat the Free Staters, they have the tantalising prospect of playing a quarter-final against either the Crusaders in Christchurch (who will surely beat the Force in New Zealand), or the Brumbies in Canberra, the latter being a decidedly easier challenge than playing the seven-times champions on their home patch.
If the Sharks beat the Cheetahs without earning a bonus point they will likely remain in sixth place and thus travel to Canberra, where they have already won this year.
But Daniel says it would be dangerous for the players to approach the game with an agenda in mind, because they could lose and end up missing out altogether.
“As players, we will approach this game the same as we did against the Bulls last week: build an innings first,” the captain said.
“No matter where we are on the field, it’s not like we’re going to be thinking, ‘let’s not score another try or we might be playing the Crusaders’. Win the game first, that’s always the priority.
“Obviously, it’s a shorter trip to Canberra, but somewhere along the line you have to play the top teams and win away from home.
“Especially for us with our position on the log – to win this competition we will have to win away, so ultimately it is not that important who we play first.”
But before they get ahead of themselves, they must beat a side that has long been their nemesis.
The Sharks’ Currie Cup and Super Rugby history is littered with the carcasses of shock defeats by the Cheetahs.
The latter have long been out of the Super Rugby play-offs, so what will they bring to the Kings Park party?
“I don’t think the Cheetahs will change their approach too much just because it’s their last game of the competition,” Daniel said.
“I think we can expect the same brand of rugby they’ve played all year.
“They’ve scored some exciting tries and they have some great attacking players, so they are capable of scoring from anywhere.
“We saw how well they played against the Hurricanes.
“This is another all-South African encounter between two teams who both want to dominate up front.
“We won that battle last weekend against the Bulls, and we’ll focus on doing that again.”
The beauty of the 32-10 win over the Bulls is that the Sharks did everything they did not do in their previous match against the Lions.
“That’s the nature of sport, everyone seemed to be on the same page against the Bulls and it shows what we are capable of doing when we focus as a team,” the captain said.
“In my opinion, that was one of the better, more clinical performances of the year from us,” he said.
“All the players put their hands up.
“There were a couple of exceptional performances from one or two, but you can’t say any one player didn’t have a good game – I thought everyone played well.
“I felt that it was our most all-round performance this year,” Daniel said.
“We did well in the set piece, and defensively we were very strong, even though at times we slipped one or two tackles.
“And when we got front-foot ball, we attacked really well.” – The Mercury