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    Underdog Sharks have 'nothing to lose'

    2017-07-21 11:45

    Lloyd Burnard - Sport24

    Cape Town - The Sharks go into Saturday's Super Rugby quarter-final against the Lions at Ellis Park with absolutely nothing to lose. 

    The sides have already met twice this season - once in Johannesburg and once in Durban - and the Lions emerged victorious on both occasions on their way to finishing top of the log.

    After last year's runners-up performance, there are many who believe that the Lions can go one step further in 2017 by winning the title now that they have secured home ground advantage throughout the play-offs.

    Johan Ackermann's men have been seriously impressive throughout the campaign, losing just once when they sent an under-strength side to Buenos Aires against the Jaguares.

    They remain one of the most aesthetically pleasing sides in the competition and their continutiy in style and personnel over the past few seasons is paying dividends.

    The Sharks, meanwhile, have been one of the most inconsistent sides in the tournament.

    Under the new leadership of coach Robert du Preez, they have once again been disrupted by injury to captain and flyhalf general Pat Lambie. 

    That has opened the door for Curwin Bosch and Garth April at No 10, but the Sharks have failed to string together the consistently good performances that would suggest that they are realistic title contenders this year. 

    On paper, the Lions are overwhelming favourites, even if the Sharks came agonisingly close to beating them at Ellis Park back on April 1 when they lost 34-29.

    That game will certainly inspire an element of faith in the Sharks camp, and Du Preez believes that they go into Saturday's do-or-die affair without any pressure.

    "The pressure is on them ... everyone is expecting them to win. We've got nothing to lose, and that's going to be our mindset," the coach said in Durban on Thursday.

    "We've had a great week and the boys are ready. We know we've got a big shot at this. It's a one-off game and the boys will be up for it.

    "It's a final, so that makes it different to the other games we've played against them.

    "We're just going to go in with what we're good at and hopefully that will be enough to pull it through for us."

    The inclusion of Bosch at No 10 makes for an exciting match-up with Springbok flyhalf Elton Jantjies. 

    Bosch was exceptional in that April 1 loss in Johannesburg in a match that has been one of the most entertaining of this year's competition. 

    "The last time we played the Lions up there Curwin really did well for us and we're hoping for a repeat performance from him ... that's the reason we brought him back in," said the coach, adding that Bosch's kicking game was a major factor in him getting the nod.

    "It is a final and in the last game we didn't get the territory we wanted ... that will be a big focus for us."

    The task may be monumental, but the Sharks are certainly not lacking in confidence. 

    "From the word go this week the guys have been on fire," said captain Philip van der Walt.

    "We haven't really played to our potential this year and what better time to do it than now? We believe that if we do play to our potential we can certainly win.

    "There are no second chances for either of the teams and us being underdogs, we have nothing to lose. We want to apply that pressure and let them feel it from the start."

    Kick-off is at 14:30.

    Follow Sport24 journalist @LloydBurnard on Twitter...

    Teams:

    Lions

    15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Ruan Ackermann, 7 Kwagga Smith, 6  Jaco Kriel (captain), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Jacques van Rooyen

    Substitutes: 16. Akker vd Merwe, 17 Corne Fourie, 18 Johannes Jonker, 19 Lourens Erasmus, 20 Cyle Brink, 21 Faf de Klerk, 22 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 23 Sylvian Mahuza

    Sharks

    15 Lwazi Mvovo, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 S’busiso Nkosi, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Daniel du Preez, 7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Philip van der Walt (captain), 5 Stephan Lewies, 4 Etienne Oosthuizen, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Thomas du Toit
     
    Substitutes: 16. Franco Marais/Stephan Coetzee, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 Jean Droste, 20 Tera Mtembu, 21 Michael Claassens, 22 Garth April, 23 Jeremy Ward

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