DURBAN – Despite the Sharks and the Lions both assured of knock-out action, leaving this last Super Rugby game with little on the line, especially for the Sharks, there is still a fiery motivation brewing in Durban.
Like in any South African derby, there is a point of pride each time teams from the Republic clash. And with the Sharks’ frustrations running high after the first encounter between these sides, there is a little unfinished business that needs attending to.
The Sharks came within a TMO’s call of winning their match against the Lions at fortress Ellis Park earlier in the season. It was the men from Durban at their very best as they really put it to the opposition.
For captain Philip van der Walt this is important for it shows his own players they have the ability, but it also warns the Lions that there is a game on here.
“There is a lot of determination,” Van der Walt said of his charges as he prepared to lead them for their last home game of the season. “It is almost the same feeling like we had for the game against the Stormers, and the guys are very eager.
“The main focus will be to control the excitement into an environment where we don’t do stupid things. I think that is what happened against the Bulls; we started getting anxious and we were uncontrolled. We don’t have to motivate anyone for this game, but the key is to be accurate.”
The Sharks know they will be met with a team that is brimming with confidence. They are second on the log after losing just one game, which seemed to almost be their own doing, in Argentina.
They are also a team full of reinvigorated Springboks.
“The Lions take the confidence out of their players being in the Boks,” the captain explained. And of course the way they played, even after the break, with that performance against the Sunwolves.
“We expect a team full of confidence, full of running and excitement. We just have to weather the storm.
“Our guys are definitely up for it, especially after a disappointing game against the Bulls. We back ourselves, knowing that we have the ability that we have proven to them already this season. Once we get going we can be pretty lethal.”
For the Sharks, they can always go back and blame a dodgy TMO decision for their loss, but Van der Walt would prefer his team to rather tighten up and not give the officials any scope to have an influence on the game.
“We want to be clean and take the 50-50s out of the way. We need to just focus on our game plan and get it done well. If it does come to a 50-50, though, hopefully it falls on our side!” he exclaimed.
The Sharks could still meet the Lions again this season.
If they were to lose this game, it would see the Lions get ahead of the Crusaders on points, and if the Crusaders slip in their last game to the Hurricanes, the Lions would take top spot.
With the Sharks being in eighth, they would then play the top seeded Lions at Ellis Park in a play-off match.