Sharks wary of 'hungry Lions'
Durban - Sharks captain Keegan Daniel insists the Lions’ recent track record in Currie Cup competition will have no bearing on what happens in Saturday’s final in Johannesburg.
The two franchises have endured contrasting times over the past decade with the coastal side bidding for a third title in four years.
For their part, the men from Gauteng will be desperate to end a title drought that dates back 12 years.
"You can’t live on reputation, it’s not going to get you anywhere," Daniel told reporters on Tuesday.
"A lot of us have played in a couple of finals and possibly a lot of the Lions guys haven’t.
"But then you can reverse that and say their team has been together the whole year, and we’ve had to incorporate some new guys towards the end of the season.
"So I don’t think it’s going to make too much of a difference."
Daniel’s reference to the Lions being together all year was due to the fact that few of the players within their set-up from the start of 2011 were in the Springbok setup.
Only flyhalf Butch James and prop CJ van der Linde were in the Tri-Nations and World Cup squads.
This means coach John Mitchell had continuity on his side.
That momentum helped them clinch top spot on the Currie Cup log with a game to spare and handed them home advantage at Coca-Cola Park in the play-offs.
On the other hand, the Durban outfit had almost their entire first team involved in the national setup.
Daniel warned that the Sharks would need to caution against the extra determination from the hosts.
"We know what it was like to play in a final not having won it for so long, the hunger that we had that day," the Sharks skipper said, casting his mind back to 2008 when they themselves ended a 12-year barren spell.
"They're going to bring that same thing, I’m sure. So for us it’s about being physical and fronting up on the day no matter what personnel that you have."
The Sharks, boosted by their World Cup Springboks for the last two games, including the 20-13 semi-final win over the Cheetahs, were bolstered with news on Tuesday that Frederic Michalak had passed a fitness test.
The influential flyhalf, currently the top points scorer this season with 181 points, limped off over the weekend with a knee problem.
He will be available, and there were no fresh injury concerns for coach John Plumtree.
Flanker Daniel was only appointed captain of the team at the start of the campaign and paid tribute to his predecessor Stefan Terblanche as well as the other senior players in helping him lead the team into the final.
"When Plum [Plumtree] announced at the beginning of the season that I was going to take over, I was still going to work closely with Stef [Terblanche], Jacques [Botes] and those kind of experienced guys who have been around and done that. They’ve helped me a lot.
"It’s been a great group of young individuals that I’ve had the privilege of leading.
"Obviously the experienced guys are now back, and it helps so much more.
"There have been a few challenges and we’ve worked through those, but I’m just happy to be here. I’ve enjoyed it this far."