With just two matches to go to the Currie Cup semi-finals, it’s very much crunch time for the six contenders for the playoffs, and the Sharks accordingly are treating each week from here on in as if it was the final itself.
The Sharks need to beat the Lions on Saturday in Durban to remain at No.1. They need to do the same next week in Kimberley and need bonus-point wins to boot to ensure that Western Province cannot possibly catch them; then it is the semi-finals and the final.
“We have a month left of the season, I hope, and the fact of the matter is that we have not got anywhere yet. If we falter over the next few weeks, we make it that much more difficult to win the big prize,” coach John Plumtree said on Monday before his team’s first training session of the week.
“This week is about securing a home semi-final; next week will be about playing to finish top of the log and thus earn the right to host the final, if we get there. So, yes, we are treating each match from here on in as if it was a final of sorts,” he said.A five-point haul against the Lions would be first prize but the coach says the Sharks will not fall into the trap of chasing the bonus point.
“This is such a big game for both teams. The Lions are playing for their lives and we very much want to stay on top of the log. In a game like this, you have to make sure you win the game first before you start worrying about how many tries you have scored,” Plumtree said.
“Fortunately, we are playing an attacking form of rugby that hopefully will get us the full five points. And this is happening naturally, so it is not a case of having to force something we are not familiar with.”
The Sharks were close to full strength at Monday’s session. Long-term absentees Jean Deysel (knee) and Craig Burden (collarbone) will again not be considered this week and Riaan Swanepoel is probably out once more with his shoulder injury. Juan Hernandez (lower back) and Andries Strauss (hip) did not train but are expected to be available later in the week.
Otherwise, the Sharks’ full complement of Tri-Nations Springboks reported for duty.
Plumtree has three experienced Sharks captains at his disposal in John Smit, Johann Muller and Stefan Terblanche, and it is the latter who is likely to get the nod for the rest of the season. Terblanche has been an integral part of the Sharks’ campaign from the start while Muller was sidelined for most of the competition with a broken arm and Smit has only recently joined the squad from Tri-Nations duty.
“I would say there is a fair chance that Stefan will remain captain,” Plumtree said. “These guys all have respect for each other.”
Article from by Mike Greenaway The Star via www.iol.co.za