There has been plenty of blood, sweat and toil over the last five months of Super Rugby, but the Sharks now hope to reap the rewards as they head into the knockout phase of the competition.
It starts with this evening’s highly-anticipated clash against the Highlanders in a “quarter-final” play-off at Kings Park.
Should the Sharks emerge victorious, a semi-final date against the Crusaders in Christchurch awaits next weekend, while the final is likely to be hosted by the Waratahs in Sydney.
The Sharks will know that this evening’s challenge is a significant one against a Highlanders team that has welcomed All Black Ben Smith back into their starting line-up.
However, the Sharks’ squad has also been boosted by the return of fit-again scrumhalf Cobus Reinach, while Pat Lambie will make his comeback from injury off the bench.
Sharks director of rugby Jake White said they were aware just how dangerous the Highlanders could be, having suffered a shock defeat to the New Zealanders in April.
“When the Highlanders are on song, they can perform – they beat some big teams this year, and this is a team that can score tries… In a lot of ways, it’s probably a good thing for us that we lost that pool game against them. Had we beaten them comfortably, perhaps we would have gone into this game thinking it was a fait accompli, but now we get to have another crack at them.”
Meanwhile, the Sharks have called on their fans to pack out Kings Park, with a special ticket offer affording a family of four (two adults and two children), the opportunity to attend the game for just R350. Otherwise the ticket prices are R150 for adults, R90 for the Sibaya Super Stand, and R80 for pupils. - Independent on Saturday