DURBAN – With all the excitement and positivity from a successful Springbok outing against England behind them, the Sharks are fully focused on the magnitude of the game that awaits them tomorrow at Kings Park, 5.15pm.
The Durban-based team face off against the table-topping Lions, who haven't lost to a South African side in over two seasons. However, the Lions have been inconsistent this year, much like the Sharks, and it will be all about who turns up on the day.
For the Lions, it is another chance to solidify their relatively cushy position atop the SA conference, but for the Sharks it is make-or-break time, and the players are feeling that pressure, lining this game up as a final.
“This game is going to be a final on Saturday,” veteran prop Tendai Mtawarira said. “We are not looking past Saturday, it is our first final and we have to get past it, so all focus is on that.”
These thoughts have also been echoed by coach Robert du Preez who knows that should the Sharks stumble against the Lions, they are more than likely out of the race for a playoff spot.
“We are going to a defining part of our season,” Du Preez explained. “This is it, every game is of great importance, we have to win every game, but we are not looking any further than Saturday, it is the big one. Through the season there has been a lack of consistency, we have played some great games and then some which were mediocre. But that is all in the past now, this is finals rugby for us now.”
The Sharks, in preparation for this all important clash, have not scrimped on their firepower in selection. Du Preez has named the best available team to him, chock full of old and new Springboks. The player who is missing is Stephan Lewies who has undergone knee surgery.
“We will have 14 Springboks in our match-day squad,” Du Preez added. “That tells a story that the guys have worked incredibly hard. We have played some great rugby, and it is coming down to this weekend and this weekend only.”
The Sharks will be hoping the likes of Sbu Nkosi, Lukhanyo Am, Jean-Luc du Preez and Mtawarira are able to bring some of the magic they showed against the English in the three-Test Series. Additionally, some of the fringe players, like Andre Esterhuizen, Curwin Bosch, Robert du Preez and Akker van der Merwe will also be raring to go.
The confidence, and the desperation, tied in with the home environment, could well just sway things in favour of the Sharks. Mtawarira adds, that there are no real excuses.
“Playing at home gives us no excuses, everything is in our favour. Playing in front of our fans at home, with a familiar environment the whole week, helps mentally. Now we really have to put on a good performance and play well,” he said.