The Sharks, having lost 25-10 to the Waratahs earlier this season, know well what they should not do when they play the Australians in the Super 14 semi-final here on Saturday.
Liam Del Carme writes Beeld that for that reason, the South Africans feel they are better equipped to win the rematch, even though it may necessitate a team change.
On their previous visit to Sydney, the Sharks came off second best in the mauls.
“We learnt a lot from the defeat,” Sharks coach Dick Muir said here on Wednesday. We have changed some things. We are certainly better, as a squad, than when we were here last.”
Muir has no doubt that the Sharks will have to stand up to the Waratahs in contact situations. The battle for the ball will be crucial.
“We will have to soften them up in the mauls. We can’t afford to come second in that department,” he said, without placing any cards on the table.
The possibility that Tonga’s Epi Taione will be included on the flank, has become stronger.
Taione served a six-week suspension after head-butting Jeremy Thrush of the Hurricanes earlier this season. He seems likely to be among the loose forwards as part of the Sharks’ plans to hold their own at breakdown points.
His chances of playing are probably better than those of Springboks Frans Steyn and BJ Botha are.
Assistant coach Grant Bashford thought on Tuesday that Botha had almost no chance of being fit to play but Muir seemed optimistic on Wednesday.
“We feel Frans and BJ should both be ready. We will finalise the team only on Thursday and will wait and see,” Muir said.
But even if Botha has recovered from his calf-muscle injury it may be risky to include the tough front-row star in the starting lineup.
The Waratahs are expected to stick to the team that beat the Reds last week, with the exception of Tatafu Polota-Nau, who will be replaced in the front row by Adam Freier.
There is also some doubt about the fitness of star wing Lote Tuqiri, who took a knock on a knee last week.
A probable Skarks team:
Stefan Terblanche; Odwa Ndungane, Adrian Jacobs, Brad Barritt, JP Pietersen; Ruan Pienaar, Rory Kockott; Ryan Kankowski, Epi Tainone, Jacques Botes, Johann Muller, Steven Sykes, Jannie du Plessis, Bismarck du Plessis, Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: Waylon Murray Frans Steyn; Jean Deysel, AJ Venter, Albert van den Berg, BJ Botha, Craig Burden.