The Lions’ implosion will send the Sharks to New Zealand for a daunting SuperRugby quarterfinal against the Hurricanes in Wellington, but the KwaZulu-Natalians were convincing 32-15 winners over them in their league match in Durban in May.
The Hurricanes were full of confidence after putting 50 past the Lions the previous weekend at Ellis Park, but the Sharks cramped their space and fed ruthlessly off their many errors under the resulting pressure to thoroughly outplay them, giving them hope for this weekend’s rematch.
“It’s a good thing in terms of knowledge and confidence – we know how to beat them and we know that if we play well then we can beat them. But it will be a completely different kettle of fish this weekend because the Hurricanes are playing very well, I thought they were outstanding against the Crusaders, and Wellington is a very difficult place to go.
“They have some serious strengths that we have to negate first, their broken-field runners and offloads means that you have to be very good defensively and you have to play in the right areas. But we were good with ball in hand against them as well and you need to ask questions of the New Zealand sides. They have a drift defence so there are opportunities with that, and game-management is also important, you have to stick to your principles,” coach Gary Gold said on Monday.
Even though the stakes are higher this weekend, Gold said there was less pressure on his side in terms of not being distracted by getting bonus points to win their playoff race with the Bulls.
“There will be a little bit less pressure on us to score tries, to chase bonus points, which meant sometimes the team was trying to jog before they could walk. Now we’ve just got to win. We have to take our opportunities, that includes shots at goal, and build the scoreboard.
“But if you go into your shells and don’t have a go against the New Zealand sides then it can be a really bad day for you. So we have to go into the game with a positive mindset and ask questions of them,” Gold said.