Gold: Lions more of a threat than Kiwi teams
Cape Town - The Sharks were outplayed when they hosted the Lions back in April, going down 24-9 at King's Park.
Now, with just three rounds of Super Rugby fixtures remaining, Gary Gold's men are preparing for the return fixture at Ellis Park on Saturday knowing that defeat could be detrimental to their playoff ambitions.
Victory for the Lions on Saturday means that they are all but guaranteed to finish top of Africa Conference 2, and the only way to the playoffs for the Sharks would be through the wildcard position allocated to the third-placed team in the South African Group.
It is a daunting task for the Durbanites.
Not only do they desperately need the win, but they are up against one of the most dangerous side in the competition, says Gold.
"They’re a lethal team … these guys are definitely the biggest threat that we have had to date and I include the five New Zealand teams in that," the Sharks boss said.
"They’ve made Ellis Park a fortress and it’s a tough place to go and play. They’re a difficult team to play against because of the style and pace and intensity they play at.
"(We have) A huge amount of respect for them … we always see New Zealand teams as setting the benchmark and it’s nice from a South African point of view that a South African side is setting a benchmark in the way they’re playing."
The Lions have no less than seven players in their starting line-up for Saturday who are returning from Springbok duty against Ireland, and Gold is expecting that to provide a huge boost of confidence to the Lions as a whole.
"They went on a break and more than half
the team got rewarded with Springbok caps," said Gold.
"The factor that they played in helping
the Springboks overcome the Irish … of course they’ll be confident with that
and quite rightly so."
The Sharks, meanwhile, will field just three players who represented the Boks in the Ireland series.
15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Ruan Ackermann, 7 Warwick Tecklenburg, 6 Jaco Kriel (captain), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Julian Redelinghuys, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Dylan Smith
Substitutes: 16 Armand Van Der Merwe,17 Corne Fourie, 18 Jacques van Rooyen,19 Lourens Erasmus, 20 Cyle Brink, 21 Ross Cronje, 22 Howard Mnisi, 23 Sylvian Mahuza
15. Odwa Ndungane, 14 JP Pietersen, 13. Paul Jordaan, 12. Andre Esterhuizen, 11. Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Garth April, 9. Michael Claassens, 8. Philip van der Walt, 7. Jean-Luc du Preez, 6. Keegan Daniel, 5. Stephan Lewies, 4. Etienne Oosthuizen, 3. Lourens Adriaanse, 2. Franco Marais, 1. Tendai Mtawarira (captain)
Substitutes: 16. Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17. Thomas du Toit, 18. Coenie Oosthuizen, 19. Ruan Botha, 20. Tera Mtembu, 21. Stefan Ungerer, 22. Rhyno Smith, 23. S'bura Sithole