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Identifying the Sharks strength’s ‘isn’t rocket science’ but beating them is another story, says Ulster coach Dan McFarland

Ulster head coach Dan McFarland says it won’t be easy to beat the Sharks. Photo: Ryan Byrne/INPHO/Shutterstock/BackpagepPix

Ulster head coach Dan McFarland says it won’t be easy to beat the Sharks. Photo: Ryan Byrne/INPHO/Shutterstock/BackpagepPix

Published May 17, 2022

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Ulster coach Dan McFarland says that identifying the strengths of the Sharks “is not rocket science” but doing something about it is another story.

McFarland’s Ulster side goes into the final round of the URC in fifth position and they must beat the Sharks at the Kingspan Stadium in Belfast to guarantee a home quarter-final while the Sharks are playing for exactly the same reward — a home quarter-final (at Hollywoodbets Kings Park).

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“It is fair to say that it is a very important game,” McFarland said with wry understatement in an online media conference. “We have both qualified for the quarter-finals and we have both qualified for Europe, but the prize is a home quarter-final and it goes to the winner. That has a huge impact for both teams.”

Ulster were second to Leinster on the points table for much of the URC but came unstuck on their tour to South Africa and McFarland says his team is much the wiser now that they are up against another South African side.

“It’s not complicated, really,” he said of playing the SA teams. “They test you in the set-piece, all of them in varying degrees in different areas. It’s not rocket science, but it is at another level to a lot of the teams in the URC. Their physicality and ball-carrying are also right up there. Three of those teams are right up there in terms of winning the gain-line when playing off nine. It’s tough to deal with, though it is an area we also pride ourselves in.”

McFarland added that the SA teams are all dangerous on the counter-attack, especially if the opposition is inaccurate with their field kicking.

“They have also got lethal back threes, so broken-field running and loose kicking can be fatal against a number of the South African teams, particularly the Sharks.”

The Sharks will be at full strength for the Ulster match and have been boosted by the return of regular captain Lukhanyo Am, who has completed his sojourn to Japan.

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“The Sharks have fabulous players,” McFarland said. “They are World Cup winners. It is brilliant that our home stadium here will have the chance to host players of that quality. The addition of the South African teams has really added to that. Siya Kolisi is not the only star in the Sharks team. They have got a number of World Cup winners. They will bring some stardust to the Kingspan on Friday, just like we will put out on the pitch.”

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