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    Gold: This weekend is 'crunch time'

    2016-06-30 12:35

    Cape Town - On paper, it is surely the most enticing of this weekend's Super Rugby fixtures.

    The Sharks host the Lions at Ellis Park on Saturday in a match that is certain to have a major impact on the playoff race this season.

    The Lions are currently seven points ahead of the Sharks in Africa Conference 2 and if they win on Saturday they will ensure that they finish top of the Conference and secure a home semi-final.

    That result would also be a major dent in the Sharks' play-off aspirations as they are currently just three points ahead of the Bulls in the South African Group.

    It is potentially do-or-die stuff for the Sharks, and coach Gary Gold is fully aware of the challenge that awaits his side.

    "They are a fantastic team and we have a huge amount of respect for them. We know how good they are with ball in hand and the questions they ask on defence," Gold said after his team announcement on Thursday.

    “We want to focus our attention on our own game and our players have returned to training in high spirits with renewed energy and focus. 

    "It is important for us to utilise our opportunities and ask questions of our own. The set-piece battle is going to be important and it will lay the foundation for us to launch our attacks off."

    Gold is also fully aware of the importance of this match.

    "It’s crunch time in the competition and we are looking forward to the challenge of playing an in-form Lions team," he said.

    "We remain committed to improving from where we left off before the June break."

    Kick-off on Saturday is at 17:10.

    Teams:

    Lions

    TBA

    Sharks

    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

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    Fixtures

    Saturday, 17 February 2018
    • Stormers v Jaguares, Cape Town 15:05
    • Lions v Sharks, Emirates Airlines Park 17:15
    Friday, 23 February 2018
    • Highlanders v Blues, 08:35
    • Rebels v Reds, AAMI Park 10:45
    Saturday, 24 February 2018
    • Sunwolves v Brumbies, Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium 06:15
    • Crusaders v Chiefs, 08:35
    • Waratahs v Stormers, Allianz Stadium 10:45
    • Lions v Jaguares, Emirates Airlines Park 15:05
    • Bulls v Hurricanes, Loftus Versfeld 17:15

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