The home side go into the clash against a formidable Lions pack without a core of experienced players in Akker van der Merwe (shoulder), Tendai Mtawarira (knee), Craig Burden (bicep) and Thomas du Toit (ankle sprain).
The Lions are one of only two teams (the Rebels are the other) with a 90 percent success rate at both the line-out (90 percent) and the scrum (92 percent) in Super Rugby this year, and Sharks prop Coenie Oosthuizen is predicting a massive onslaught from the Lions forwards.
“I can promise you they won’t make the same mistakes they did when we beat them easily in Joburg,” said Oosthuizen. “They will rectify their mistakes, so from our side we have to step it up and be ready for a heck of a battle in the first 20 minutes.”
The opening exchanges are indeed going to be fiery, considering the Sharks have identified that period of the game as one of the main reasons they have lost four matches at home this season.
“Obviously, we are not blind to our mistakes and on tour we had a good opportunity to reflect on what has gone wrong at home,” Oosthuizen said. “There are definitely things we can do better and we will be implementing them from this game against the Lions and going forward.”
Oosthuizen did not want to give too much away but he did highlight one obvious area the Sharks have to fix. “Starting well in a game is massively important and it is something we have struggled with at home. You can look at every aspect of a rugby game but if you don’t start well, you are guaranteed to struggle later in the game,” Oosthuizen said.
“The first quarter will be vital for us on Saturday. We have to come out firing. We have to show the right intent both for us and the opposition everyone must know that we mean business. We are determined not to fall behind and then have to try and catch up later in the game.”
And Oosthuizen is anticipating a tougher physical battle.
“Derby games are the most physical in Super Rugby,” the 30-year-old said. “People think it is the New Zealand teams, the likes of the Crusaders that are toughest, but it is the SA derbies by some margin.
“I think it is because we play each other so much and so know exactly what to expect,” he added.
“The SA guys know how to get under your skin. You have played alongside many of those guys in some team or another over your career and they know what buttons to press.”@MikeGreenaway67