Vodacom Super Rugby
Lions still hoping for a win
Johannesburg - Lions coach John Mitchell
this week almost seemed to have resigned himself to his side's fate at the bottom of this year's Super Rugby competition.
Mitchell, however, has not changed his tune since the start of this season believing that the Lions' fortune depended on how they used their opportunities.
"The Sharks will be blunt, I guess it is up to us to deny them access into the game," Mitchell said.
"So I guess it will come down to how long we are prepared to remain in an arm wrestle and maximise what we have. If we do that then we will present ourselves with an opportunity."
The ill-fated Lions may feel like life had a bone to pick with them as they face a resurgent Sharks team in Johannesburg on Saturday, fresh off a disastrous tour of Australasia.
"They (The Sharks) are playing good rugby, they look like they're a side back to the sort of fluent rugby they played back in 2010. I think Plum (Sharks coach John Plumtree) has done a bloody good job with them," said Mitchell.
"They've sort of started off slowly but they've good fluency in their game and they're a very coherent team they actually had very little change to be fair."
After a sequence of lacklustre performances, the Sharks have emerged as one of the better oiled machines in the competition. The coastal side racked up four convincing victories over quality sides on the trot.
While Mitchell had to contend with a flurry of injuries and the possibility of relegation at the end of the season hanging over his side, Plumtree had the advantage of continuity in selection.
Plumtree made only one change to the side that beat the top-of-the-table Stormers last week, whereas Mitchell made four changes to his team for the local derby.
"Bringing back Beast (Mtawarira) but Steven Sykes has certainly brought the necessary presence that's maybe been missing in the forward pack," said Mitchell.
"They are very aggressive and hungry because they're within a sniff of playoffs so they are a dangerous animal."
With only one victory to their name so far this season, the Lions' character will truly be tested when they go up against a Sharks team gunning for a spot in the playoffs.
"I think the quality of their backs is probably superior in finishing than us right now in the competition which clearly the statistics will support that," the Lions mentor said.
"They are no different to where they have been before they're just more coherent and that they look hungry and that is always a dangerous Sharks side."
Plumtree empathised with his fellow countryman and the difficulties the Lions faced in the competition.
"The Lions have had a tough season and they've had a lot of off-field distraction which hasn't helped them. They've suffered a lot of injuries and it's hard enough to do well with a fit squad in this competition," said Plumtree.
"But we're expecting them to come into this game with a lot of passion. We know that spending time on tour together builds a lot of team spirit. No-one really put them away on tour, there were no real hammerings. We have to go up there with the right amount of respect."