Lions gamble leaves Sharks in the dark

2016-07-15 06:00
       PHOTO:      sourced Gary Gold.

PHOTO: sourced Gary Gold.

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THE Sharks will qualify eighth on Super Rugby’s overall log if they beat the Sunwolves at Kings Park tonight.

That will secure them a quarter-final spot against whoever finishes first on the log, and up until Tuesday afternoon that side was largely expected to be the Lions.

But Johann Ackermann has named a heavily watered down side to take on the Jaguares in Buenos Aires on Saturday night, and all-of-a-sudden top spot is looking like a big ask for the Bok-less Lions.

Defeat for the Lions would open the door for one of the Chiefs, Crusaders, Hurricanes or Highlanders to bag first place on the log and home ground advantage throughout the playoffs.

So, the Sharks will either be travelling to Johannesburg for a quarter-final against the Lions in what will be the third meeting between the sides this season, or they will be off to New Zealand to face one of the four above-mentioned sides.

Either way, it will be a tough ask for Gary Gold’s men.

“We’ve planned accordingly for that. We know the two scenarios should they come through,” Gold said of his side’s uncertain quarter-final fate.

“We know when we travel now so at least we’ve got peace of mind knowing what our day on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday look like irrelevant of what the result is.”

Of course, before the Sharks think about who they will be meeting in the quarter-finals they have to get past the Sunwolves.

The victory should be a formality, but the Japanese outfit has shown enough throughout the season to suggest that they can cause an upset.

The Bulls and Cheetahs both secured the narrowest of victories in Singapore while the Stormers returned to South Africa with a 17-17 draw to show for their efforts.

“We need to put a performance together … something where we’re clinical,” said Gold.

“It’s got to be about our execution and what we do. Interestingly enough, when you have a look at the opposition against the Sunwolves guys have worked hard for their points.

“We need to eave to have our wits about us. We’re going to have to work very hard in the first 20-35 minutes and if we wear them down, we’ll be alright.

“If we let it become a game of touch rugby and we’re chasing all night long and it’s a close game at half time then it’s going to be a tough evening.” - Lloyd Burnard, Sport24.

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