Durban - The prospect of facing a Golden Lions team that could be boosted by the presence of four key Springboks has added to the need for the Sharks to be on the money in all facets of their game in Saturday’s big Currie Cup semifinal in Durban.
The Lions will find out later this week whether they can use Malcolm Marx, Franco Mostert, Warren Whiteley and Aphiwe Dyantyi in the match. The last mentioned would have been anticipated as a Sharks opponent this weekend, with his clash with fellow Bok wing Sbu Nkosi being one good reason to pay for match tickets.
However, the news that the other three might be available will have taken the Sharks by surprise. Marx played in last year’s semi-final against Western Province in Cape Town, while it is easy to forget about Mostert and Whiteley as they were away playing in Japan during the last two domestic seasons.
Like Lionel Mapoe and Elton Jantjies, who are definitely back in the mix, neither Mostert or Whiteley are contracted to Japan this year, which theoretically does make them available for selection. It could all come down to what Bok coach Rassie Erasmus considers to be the best interests of the national team.
Certainly Whiteley could do with some game time if he is fit, but Mostert, like WP’s Pieter-Steph du Toit, has played a lot of rugby this year and should probably be saved for the test matches. The first test of the overseas tour against England at Twickenham on November 3 is just over two weeks away.
Regardless of who the Lions might feel, the Sharks know they will need to be on top of their game, and discipline is a key focus for them as they head into the knock-out phase. So is keeping concentration and focus for the full 80 minutes, something the Sharks haven’t been good at this season.
“A semi-final is a different ball game and while you don’t necessarily want to be conservative, you do want to be accurate in everything you do,” said Sharks defence coach Braam van Straaten in an interview with the Durban rugby media on Monday.
“That means not getting bored with the small things; it is not overplaying your hand in your own half; it means sticking with what is working which we often have not done ...In short it is about keeping focus. For 60 minutes against Griquas we produced some really good stuff, we defended very well and we took our opportunities early on in the game but in the last 20 we lost our way again.”
The Lions match and the final that the Sharks hope will follow that will provide an interesting test of the Sharks’ progress during a domestic season that is being seen as the preparation phase for next year’s Super Rugby challenge.
“We are very much a work in progress but the encouraging thing is that there is no problem with the understanding of what we want to do. There is clarity on how we want to play. But with a young bunch it takes time to get it everything right,” said Van Straaten.
“We saw against Western Province in Cape Town what can happen when we get loose and don’t look after the ball. And this is in the Currie Cup where you have more leeway than in Super Rugby, which is what we are building towards. That will be the next step and we need to kick on with what we are doing from the Currie Cup into Super Rugby.
“The margin for error in Super Rugby is very small and if you carelessly concede a turnover you can end up behind your posts.”
The same can be said for a Currie Cup semi-final, and it will be important for the Sharks to be on point against a Lions team that will be much stronger than the one that was well beaten at Kings Park earlier in the competition.
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