Sharks aim to bounce back with win against Lions

2016-03-31 06:00

THE New Zealand tour is looming but the Sharks’ immediate focus is on beating the Lions in their next Super Rugby game on April 9.

The Sharks have a bye this weekend and the players have been handed a six-day break before they start their preparations for what is a crucial conference outing.

The Sharks and Lions are both in the same African Conference and the team topping the log will host one of the quarter-finals. The Sharks are currently on top with a three-point cushion but the Lions, up against the Crusaders this weekend, have a match in hand.

While the Sharks still face their Australasian tour next month — and matches against the Blues, Highlanders and Chiefs in New Zealand — the Lions have returned from their less demanding travels with their heads high following wins over the Seawolves and the Chiefs and a loss to the Highlanders. And, while the Sharks still face four games on foreign fields, the Lions play all but one of their remaining fixtures in South Africa.

The Jaguares, crowded with Pumas, are the other threat in the conference but they have already lost to the Chiefs and Stormers at home and an away clash to the Sharks in Durban.

The Sharks, if they are to overcome their dreadful draw and top their conference, will probably have to beat the Lions in both home and away games.

Head coach Gary Gold said the Lions game on April 9 would provide the Sharks with an opportunity to bounce back from the Crusaders loss.

“Games against teams in our pool are critical. We have to get things right and this is another of those big local derbies — a huge game against a Lions team playing very good rugby. But we are looking forward to it and we’ll be up for it after having a week off.”

He said his scrum had battled in the first half against the Crusaders when they were penalised on four occasions — “for some reasons I understood and some I did not”.

“We corrected things in the second half and we even had a chance to win the game when we won a penalty at the last scrum of the game.”

The Sharks coach said he was “incredibly positive” about his squad.

“We need to look after the ball better and play more rugby, but the potential in this squad is fantastic. The players need more time in the middle together and that is what they are getting.”

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