Cape Town - Sharks coach Sean Everitt has called on his side to 'man up' on defence ahead of their Currie Cup semi-final against Free State Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
Cheetahs coach Franco Smith has got his side to play a ball-in-hand attacking game and Everitt says his side will need to negate that by rising to the challenge defensively.
“Otherwise they won’t change anything. Franco is set on his philosophy of keeping and moving the ball, and we have to negate that,” Everitt said.
“I am confident we can stand up to them. Defence was our strength in the first half of the season and if it has slackened a bit it is because of mindset rather than system errors. In short, the guys have to man up!”
The Sharks mentor is also wary of Smith's strategy of keeping his best players on the bench and unleashing them in the final 20 minutes as impact players.
The Free State side were trailing Province by 33-19 with half an hour to go before rallying back with four unanswered tries to eventually win 38-33.
“Their bench strategy has changed... they are putting on their better players late in the game for the final onslaught which has worked well for them (they came back from the dead at the weekend to beat Western Province)."
The Sharks were looking like outsiders for a knockout berth three weeks ago but won three games in a row to sneak in to the semi-finals and Everitt praised their big-match temperament.
“We have had a ‘knockout’ mentality for three weeks in that we had to win three out of three to qualify for the semi-finals, so we have been living with pressure and the guys have reacted positively," said Everitt.
“We will prepare as we have for the last month, focussing on performance. It has worked for us in that doing our best to play well, and achieving that, has meant that the results have taken care of themselves."
Currie Cup semi-final fixtures:
Saturday, August 31
Golden Lions v Griquas - 14:00
Free State Cheetahs v Sharks - 17:00