Durban - Sharks coach John Plumtree is breathing easier after his side entered the Super Rugby playoff positions for the first time this season, admitting he is happy that their destiny is now in their own hands.
The coastal side moved into sixth position on the combined log, after their 53-11 victory over the Force over the weekend.
“Now it’s about controlling our own destiny as the tournament reaches the business end,” Plumtree said.
“We have to make sure that when we get an opportunity, we take it.”
The Sharks have 36 points and are sandwiched between the two New Zealand teams, the Highlanders (35), who they beat in their previous game, and the Crusaders (37).
The Sharks are now in the "crunch" phase of the competition with three local derbies over the next three weeks, ahead of June’s international break.
They face the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Saturday, followed by a home match against the Stormers and then play the Lions away in Johannesburg on June 2.
“We know that the Cheetahs' boys are tough,” the Sharks mentor said.
“They love these derby games.
“The intensity and physicality is going to be right up there in Bloemfontein and we have to make sure we’re right up for it.
“It’s a home game for them, we know what’s coming, it’s just about making sure we meet the challenge head on.”
Plumtree was satisfied with the big win over the Force.
However, he admitted there were a few areas to rectify, especially the restarts.
“I thought we were clinical in a lot of things we did, except for the kick-offs which are something we’ll have to work hard on this week,” he said.
“We were down a little on territory, which is a bit of a worry for us, but the kick-offs were part of the reason why.”
There was concern over the weekend when flyhalf Patrick Lambie had to be replaced at half time, following a knock to the head.
Plumtree confirmed on Tuesday though that the young Springbok was likely to be fit.
The only other worry was Louis Ludik's fitness, but the rest of the squad were all fit to play.
“We’re hoping Pat will train on Tuesday,” Plumtree said.
“The worst off is Louis Ludik who has a bicep problem but hopefully he will be all right later in the week.
“Otherwise everyone else is good to go."
The clash at the Free State Stadium kicks off at 17:05 on Saturday.