The shadows are lengthening over this year’s Super 14 rugby competition but Sharks coach Dick Muir believes physical and mental exhaustion cannot be used as excuses for poor performances at the play-off stage.
Liam Del Carme writes in Beeld that the mere opportunity to be playing in a semi-final should be sufficient to push the players to the limit, he says.
“Players may need motivation for a league match but they don’t have to be motivated for a semi-final or a final,” Muir said here on Wednesday.
However, he cautioned that players should not expect that things would simply happen for them.
The Waratahs are the only team that have given the Sharks a thorough beating this year. The Durban-based side will therefore be out to settle the score.
“They are the only team that beat us convincingly. We will have to raise our levels to keep up with them,” Muir said.
“We started slowly but we have improved. One has to peak at the right moment.”
Muir agrees with assistant coach Grant Bashford that the attacking approach that the Sharks adopted in their last two matches to qualify for the knockout phase may have to make room for something more pragmatic this week.
Lack of experience
“We’ll handle the situation on merit. If there are opportunities, we’ll try to make use of them,” Muir said.
“A lack of experience may have counted against us earlier, and we still don’t have the experience one would like to have.
“But the players worked hard and it is a joy to see the work bearing fruit. We now have a team that can vary its pattern to suit different circumstances. These are exciting times for us.”
Times are particularly exciting because the Sharks have an outside chance to play in a home final, as they did last year.
Another Durban final is possible if Muir’s men beat the Waratahs and the Hurricanes account for the Crusaders in Christchurch.
In the 1999 semi-finals, the Crusaders and the Highlanders beat the Reds and the Stormers in away matches. That was the only time that both home teams lost in the semi-finals.
“It would be nice to have a home final,” Muir said, “but it will be difficult.
“The Hurricanes may not be as settled as the Crusaders are but they’re a good team. They have superstars who can change things when it’s needed.”Tweet