DURBAN - There are not many current Sharks players who have experienced winning a trophy, never mind the Currie Cup, but there is a fount of wisdom available to the youngsters in the form of the last Sharks captain to hold it aloft, Keegan Daniel.
The 32-year-old captained the Sharks to a shock title win at Newlands against an unbeaten Western Province team in 2013, but the Sharks have been conspicuous by their absence from the Currie Cup final since then.
This week the Sharks have a semi-final at home against the Bulls and the likes of Daniel and the vastly experienced Michael Claassens and Odwa Ndungane have important roles to play in guiding the relatively young side through the high-pressure world of do-or-die rugby.
“By its very definition, knock-out rugby is different, there is no getting away from that, and the key thing is to limit the pressure by keeping things as simple as possible,” the veteran flank said.
“You don’t come up with fancy plans at this stage of the season, you make sure you do the basics really, really well and understand that scoring opportunities have to be clinically taken.
“We are fortunate in that we have a good game plan that has worked us for all season and that gives us belief. It is about sticking to that plan and focusing on the basics.”
That means the Sharks will not go into their shells and will attack when opportunities arise, as will the Bulls, who have been a revelation of late with their positive play.
“The Bulls have grown immensely, they are not playing that old traditional Bulls rugby,” Daniel said.
“Their backs and forwards are combining really well and they have some serious dangermen. The talk of the town is (fullback) Warrick Gelant but he is not alone.
“The way the Bulls are playing is good for SA rugby. They are in a good place and will throw everything at us, and they will ask questions of us when they attack.
“Our defence will be tested, but it has been a key area for us all season and we take confidence from that. We have to believe and trust in our defensive system. It has worked very well so far.”
Daniel, a five-cap Springbok, admits that experienced players have to lead the way when the going gets tough.
“We will remind the youngsters to play as they have been doing all year. Composure and patience is vital in play-off rugby.”
Daniel says he would love little more than for the young talent in the squad to experience the joys of going all the way to the Currie Cup final (and winning).
“It is a special feeling to win a Currie Cup, and those of us who have done it have shared what it means to us with the others. We have spoken about it around the campfires and I hope our love for the Currie Cup has rubbed off on the youngsters,” Daniel smiled.
“It will do this union so much good if we can get to the final. It has been a while and we understand that fans are demanding. We desperately want to win for them on Saturday.”