Cape Town - There has been some talk about running rugby coming out of Durban in recent weeks and there can be no denying that they possess plenty of firepower out wide, but the bottom line will remain the same for the Sharks in Saturday’s Currie Cup semi-final against the Lions, SuperSport.com reports.
Forward dominance is what paved the way for the Sharks to top the log last year, and while there have been some tweaks and noticeable improvements to their attacking game since Dick Muir came on board as a coaching consultant, a strong first phase platform remains the non-negotiable priority.
That is especially so against a Lions team that, during the early phases of the competition, changed what Western Province coach John Dobson referred to as the “DNA” of their approach. With several key forwards lost to the Springboks, the Lions weren’t able to lay the same platform they did in Super Rugby, where the driving maul was their big go-to method of scoring tries.
There has been talk of the Lions being bolstered by some of those Boks this week and that has raised to a razor-edge the anticipation of a Sharks pack that knows how dangerous the Lions could be if their Bok laden backline gets front foot ball. It is no secret that someone like flyhalf Elton Jantjies is a different player when he has go-forward ball - in short he is a match-winner - and the Sharks will want to prevent that happening by hurting the Lions at source.
“The last time we played the Lions the set piece battle was key,” said the Sharks’ 23-year-old lock Hyron Andrews in looking ahead to the Kings Park semi-final.
“I felt we scrummed well against them (in the league fixture). The lineout was good, and our backs really performed, especially in defence, and you need a solid defence against the Lions as they attack really well. In short, when we have the ball we have to keep it and when they have it we have to keep them out.
“The Lions are a world class union, they played in the Super Rugby final, we know what they will bring, so we can rather look at our own processes and do what we have to do to win this game.”
Andrews, who although just a few years on from making his senior provincial rugby debut is already part of the Sharks’ leadership group, believes the team may be peaking at just the right time this year.
Although the Sharks messed up their lines in conceding 50 points at Newlands before that, they were very good away against Griquas last week, and in the first round game against the Lions that preceded their trip to Cape Town.
“I thought the guys went pretty well in the round robin stages, it was a real squad effort with everybody chipping in. But now that we are in the business end of the competition it feels like it is all starting to come together. A big focus for us is trying to get better every day, learning from each other and growing as a team. In this game we know we have to improve once again if we are to win through to the final.”
Kick-off is at 14:30 on Saturday.
15 Curwin Bosch, 14 Sbu Nkosi, 13 Jeremy Ward, 12 Marius Louw, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Louis Schreuder (captain), 8 Daniel du Preez, 7 Tyler Paul, 6 Jacques Vermeulen, 5 Hyron Andrews, 4 Gideon Koegelenberg, 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Akker van der Merwe, 1 Juan Schoeman
Substitutes: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 Mzamo Majola, 18 Coenie Oosthuizen, 19 Luke Stringer, 20 Jean-Luc du Preez, 21 Cameron Wright, 22 Leolin Zas, 23 Aphelele Fassi