Sharks, Lions both desperate for the win

2011-04-07 00:00

THE Sharks need to blend accuracy with intensity if they are to end their run of three successive defeats by beating the Lions in their Super Rugby game at King’s Park on Saturday night, says head coach John Plumtree.

The Sharks committed a string of handling errors in losing to the Stormers in Durban at the weekend and Plumtree said the focus this week had been “on tightening up and being more accurate”.

“It’s all very well to have the desire and intensity, but if you’re not clinical, it can get thrown straight back in your face. We have to get all areas of our game right this week.”

Plumtree emphasised that the Sharks had reached a critical stage of their season and said he was now demanding an improvement from the players.

“There comes a point in a competition when the pressure is on. I’ve cut the players a bit of slack because there are not a lot of teams in this competition who will have to do what we’ve had to do [play four games in four countries in four weeks].

“When you have to do that [travelling], and then front up physically, that’s a big ask. We were put in that situation, but we didn’t get the results.

“Now the pressure is right on and the boys need to front up this week. There’s no choice.”

The Lions have now turned to the former Sharks’ kicking coach Braam van Straaten for help.

The ex-Springbok flyhalf Braam van Straaten, who has helped Pat Lambie with his kicking, will now assist the Lions with their goal-kicking problems.

Van Straaten worked with the Wallabies during the Tri-Nations last year and has also been helping various players including Lambie, James O’Connor and Quade Cooper. Now he will take charge of the Lions’ Andre Pretorius, Burton Francis and Elton Jantjies.

Lions coach John Mitchell, while unhappy with Pretorius’s goalkicking, has praised the veteran’s general play after he made his first start of the season against the Reds at the weekend.

“Pretorius certainly controlled the game for us, and that’s what I wanted,” said Mitchell of Pretorius, who spent last year’s Currie Cup with the Sharks.

Mitchell said that both the Sharks and the Lions would be desperate to win on Saturday.

“We are both in the same position and in the end it will come down to the team that holds their nerve and the team that keeps their confidence and continues to play the way they believe.”

He said the Lions would have to improve in the set pieces to win.

“It has to do with experience, and some players have forgotten how important the little things are and that is a bit of our inexperience showing through.

“It can be easily addressed and it is just a matter of repetition.”

At least four players who were with the Sharks in Durban last year will be in the Lions squad on Saturday. One of them, prop Pat Cilliers, said yesterday that the Lions would be “desperate to win.”

The 24-year-old product of Michaelhouse has been a regular in the Lions team after spending most of his time in Durban playing behind tighthead props Jannie du Plessis, John Smit and Eugene van Staden.

“I’m looking forward to the challenge,” Cilliers told News24.

“We have analysed our game of the past weekend [against the Reds] and clearly our scrums and lineouts were not good. The performance in the lineouts was our worst to date and we couldn’t get any possession there.

“But the Sharks are also struggling in the lineouts and we are very positive about our chances,” he said.

The Lions have come close in all their games this year, but have only won once and stand on nine log points and lie 14th.

“We’re not looking at the points table too much, even if we know we don’t have many log points. We decided to set a short-term goal and we will aggressively seek to achieve that by beating the Sharks,” said Cilliers.

“We’re desperate for a victory. We are only focusing on achieving that win, no matter how we get it.”

Saturday’s match kicks off at 7.10pm

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