‘Attitude will decide final’

2011-10-27 00:00

SHARKS captain Keegan Daniel is adamant that attitude on the day, rather than past history and experience, will decide Saturday’s Currie Cup final against the Golden Lions at Ellis Park.

The Lions topped the Currie Cup log to win home-ground advantage in the final in spite of being thumped 53-9 by the Sharks a fortnight ago.

But Daniel believes that past records will count for nothing on Saturday evening.

“It’s about physically fronting up on the day, no matter who plays. You can’t live on reputation because that’s going to get you nowhere. You have to play as a team.”

Certainly circumstances have changed for both teams. The Sharks battled hard, and often untidily, to finish second on the log but they were without their Springboks; the largely unchanged Lions were the most consistent team in the Currie Cup and their recent heavy loss in Durban came when they were in an unassailable position at the top of the log and they were fielding an under-strength team without incentive.

Daniels said that experience of finals could also work both ways.

“Many of the Sharks have played in finals and the Lions players haven’t. But then you could reverse that and say they have been together all year and we’ve had to bring in new guys. I don’t think that will make too much difference.”

The Sharks went many years without any silverware after coming close before finally winning the Currie Cup in 2008 and 2010. Daniel knows how the Lions are feeling.

“We know what it is like to play in a final after not having won it for so long and the hunger that we had that day [in 2008]. The Lions will bring the same hunger on Saturday.”

Daniel echoed coach John Plumtree’s view that Frederic Michalak, over his injury, would be a key player for the Sharks.

“Flyhalf is such a pivotal position in a team and you need someone with lots of experience and confidence. We have to be grateful that we have someone with his ability and his confidence running the backline.”

Daniel said he was thoroughly enjoying his first full season as Sharks captain.

“When I was appointed captain, I said I was still going to work closely with Stefan Terblanche and Jacques Botes and other experienced players.

“It’s been a privilege working with a great group of young individuals and now having the Boks back has helped so much more. There have been a couple of challenges but we’ve worked through them and I’ve enjoyed the captaincy so far.”

Lions coach John Mitchell was yesterday able to name the same line-up which beat Western Province in the semi-finals.

He has selected two Rugby World Cup Springboks in prop CJ van der Linde, who has moved from Cape Town to Johannesburg after playing Super Rugby for the Stormers, and replacement Butch James. Two former Sharks prop Pat Cilliers and tall flank Michael Rhodes, are also included.

Mitchell has preferred young Elton Jantjies to the experienced James at flyhalf. He told reporters that selection had been “easy”.

“We’ve put a lot of focus on the advantage lines in terms of attack and defence and I believe I have selected the best combinations to create our attacking momentum and to stop the opposition’s momentum at the gainline. But this isn’t about one player, but is to do with the whole match 22.

“Every player in our team has an important role to play on the day. The guys who come off the bench need to ensure they can keep our game going.”

Mitchell, who was delighted by his team’s form and physical commitment in downing Province at the weekend, is convinced the players still have more in the tank.

“It was a very good performance by the guys. They looked composed, but we certainly can become more accurate. It started from the tight five and we built a lot more pressure. We have to turn up again against the Sharks but there is still more in us and we can go up another notch,” Mitchell said.

The final will be played to a full house with the Lions reporting yesterday that all 62 300 seats had been sold.

The match kicks off at 5.30 pm.

Golden Lions team:

15 Jaco Taute, 14 Deon van Rensburg, 13 Doppies la Grange, 12 Alwyn Hollenbach, 11 Michael Killian, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Michael Bondesio, 8 Joshua Strauss (captain), 7 Michael Rhodes, 6 Derick Minnie, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Wikus van Heerden, 3 Patric Cilliers, 2 Bandise Maku, 1 CJ Van der Linde.

Replacements: 16 Martin Bezuidenhout, 17 Jacobie Adriaanse/JC Janse van Rensburg, 18 Warren Whiteley, 19 Cobus Grobbelaar/Jaco Kriel, 20 Butch James, 21 Dylan des Fountain, 22 James Kamana.

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