Durban - The Sharks have ignored controversies within the Golden Lions Rugby Union in recent weeks, and coach John Plumtree expects a tough battle when they meet the Johannesburg side in their Currie Cup clash in Durban on Saturday.
The Lions will enter the game, a repeat of last year’s final, on the back of news this week that they have been relegated from Super Rugby for the 2013 season at the expense of the Southern Kings.
Within the last two months, Lions coach John Mitchell was suspended amid reports that players were unhappy with his coaching methods and management skills, and assistant coaches Carlos Spencer and Wayne Taylor were both sacked.
Interim coach Johan Ackermann will need to lift the players as they square up against this season's Super Rugby finalists at Kings Park.
“We don’t really care what’s going on there (at the Lions),” Plumtree said.
“Our business is on the field and we know they’ll be a real handful for us, so we’ll have to be very accurate in all areas.”
The Lions began the defence of their title with a convincing 43-20 home victory over the Cheetahs last week, while the Sharks claimed a vital 25-23 away win over Western Province.
While the Durban franchise have lost almost their entire Super Rugby side to the Springboks, the Gauteng unit have lost only two men to the national cause in Pat Cilliers and Elton Jantjies.
“They’re fortunate that they don’t lose too many players to the Boks," Plumtree said.
"In fact, they have some players back from injury to boost them, so they look in really good shape.
“They have a very experienced forward pack and at the back Butch James is obviously a key player for them.”
Elsewhere on Saturday, all eyes will be on Duane Vermeulen in Kimberley where Western Province will be keen to bounce back against Griquas at GWK Park.
The Springbok loose forward returns after a long injury layoff and there has been talk that a good performance could see him fast-tracked into the Bok team, where there are several injury concerns in his position.
Coach Allister Coetzee, though, was more concerned about getting him back to full fitness.
“We want to ease him in,” Coetzee said.
“He needs to play the same role that he has as at number eight for us before, and even though we did use him a bit as a blindside flank in Super Rugby, we believe he offers a lot as a number eight.”
Coetzee believed Griquas would put up a solid fight at home.
“It's almost as if you're always playing a final in Kimberley. It will always be tough there," he said.
"We’ll be very keen to get back to winning again after last week.”