The meeting with the high-riding Lions is crucial for the Sharks because defeat will end their hopes of hosting a semi-final.
“The news about Jake broke on Monday and we had a team meeting and that issue has now been dealt with. We all know it’s a huge game against the Lions and the focus is now on that,” Macleod-Henderson told The Citizen yesterday.
The Sharks received good news yesterday with Kyle Cooper passing a fitness test on his knee and the experienced hooker will be important in the scrums, where the Sharks will have to match the powerful Lions unit, and the lineouts, where the KwaZulu-Natalians have been the form team in the Currie Cup.
“In the last couple of games, the lineout has worked very well for us, but we want to put pressure on the Lions all over the field. We want to limit their opportunities to get the ball because they’re not shy to attack, even from their own half. There will always be opportunities for us to move our ball or kick the ball, and we want to get the balance right,” Macleod-Henderson said.
The excellence of the Sharks’ lineout, led by veteran Marco Wentzel and now featuring another Springbok in Stephan Lewies, has caused Lions coach Johan Ackermann to field Willie Britz, who has regularly played lock for the Gautengers, at eighthman.
“The more lineout options we have the better because then we’ll be under less pressure. The Sharks have an old head there in Marco Wentzel and he has been one of the best lineout jumpers for a long time. Lewies is a Springbok as well, so it’s a quality lineout and Willie Britz will be important for us,” Ackermann said yesterday.
The Lions coach is certainly expecting the forwards to be the big workers tomorrow night and has once again named a complete front row on the bench, with the versatility of Mark Richards, Howard Mnisi and even Kwagga Smith enabling him to go for a five-two split.
But Ackermann is also keen on his team maintaining their attacking mindset and the instinctive, energetic linking play between forwards and backs that has served them so well.
The Sharks have also been producing good all-round rugby and the stage is set for one of the most intriguing clashes of the season.
Sharks: 15-SP Marais, 14-S’bura Sithole, 13-Paul Jordaan, 12-Andre Esterhuizen, 11-Lwazi Mvovo, 10-Lionel Cronje, 9-Cameron Wright, 8-Tera Mtembu, 7-Etienne Oosthuizen, 6-Jacques Botes, 5-Marco Wentzel, 4-Stephan Lewies, 3-Lourens Adriaanse, 2-Kyle Cooper, 1-Thomas du Toit. Replacements – 16-Monde Hadebe, 17-Dale Chadwick, 18-Matt Stevens, 19-JC Astle, 20-Khaya Majola, 21-Conrad Hoffmann, 22-Fred Zeilinga.
Lions: 15-Andries Coetzee, 14-Ruan Combrinck, 13-Lionel Mapoe, 12-Stokkies Hanekom, 11-Courtnall Skosan, 10-Marnitz Boshoff, 9-Ross Cronje, 8-Willie Britz, 7-Warwick Tecklenburg, 6-Jaco Kriel, 5-Franco Mostert, 4-Martin Muller, 3-Ruan Dreyer, 2-Robbie Coetzee, 1-Schalk van der Merwe. Bench – 16-Armand van der Merwe, 17-Julian Redelinghuys, 18-Jacques van Rooyen, 19-Derick Minnie, 20-Kwagga Smith, 21-Mark Richards, 22-Howard Mnisi.