Sharks not looking at QF scenarios
Durban - The possible scenario facing the Sharks in their final Super Rugby match of the season against the Lions on Saturday is almost farcical.
If the Hurricanes beat the Crusaders in one of Saturday's earlier matches, then the Lions will go to the top of the log with victory over the Sharks in Durban.
The Sharks, who are guaranteed to finish eighth on the overall log, will meet whoever finishes top in the quarter-finals.
It means that, if the Hurricanes do beat the Crusaders, the Sharks will travel to Johannesburg for a quarter-final against the Lions if they lose on Saturday but will travel to Christchurch for a quarter against the Crusaders if they win.
If that situation does arise, the Sharks would actually benefit more from losing to the Lions on Saturday, if we accept that a quarter-final in Johannesburg is 'easier' than a quarter-final in Christchurch.
It is another glaring example of the flaws in the existing competition structure, but coach Robert du Preez has selected his best possible team for the clash.
He is not focusing on 'ifs' and 'maybes', but rather on his side finding some form ahead of the play-offs following their disappointing 30-13 loss at home to the Bulls two weekends ago.
"There is a lot to play for. We need to get our campaign back on track with a good performance going into the quarter-final. They've got a lot to play for as well," Du Preez said.
"Playing against the Lions and possibly a New Zealand side in the quarter-finals, we needed to up the intensity (in training) and the ball-in-play time. We spent a lot of time on that."
The Sharks came extremely close to upsetting the Lions when the sides meet in Johannesburg back on April 1 when they went down 34-29 in one of the games of the season, and Du Preez believes that performance can give his side a boost ahead of Saturday.
"We felt very unlucky not having won that game and we did play well, so hopefully we can have a repeat performance but win the game at the end," he said.
"We're going to have to be really accurate with our set pieces and put their key players under pressure.
"They are a side that has played together for a long time ... the last four years as a unit."
"We just want to focus on our game against the Lions. We'll know what the result (between the Hurricanes and Crusaders) is before we play ... we just want to make sure that we get our processes going. We want to play well on Saturday."