Durban side will show true colours in Super Rugby eliminator at Ellis Park
Subtle subterfuge was at play when the teams met a week ago‚ but it was the Sharks who had more reason to keep things up their sleeve ahead of tomorrow’s Super Rugby eliminator against the Lions at Ellis Park.
“They didn’t contest a single ruck‚” Lions assistant coach Swys de Bruin noted about last week’s clash the visitors won 27-10 in Durban.
De Bruin believes not much can be read into last week’s contest. The Sharks‚ he argues‚ will be a different beast at Ellis Park.
“I expect them to attack the breakdown with everything they’ve got and that they will attack our set piece,” he said.
“I don’t think Robert [du Preez‚ the Sharks coach] wanted to show anything. We didn’t want to show much either‚” De Bruin said‚ admitting that they too had bigger fish to fry.
If the Sharks were hiding their true colours‚ it did not seem to bother the Lions.
Coach Johan Ackermann is of the firm belief that their blueprint‚ no matter what‚ will again be put to operational use.
“The players are like race horses. They’ve been groomed and drilled to play in a certain way,” Ackermann said.
“If you challenge them to change that it will be unfair on them. I want them to play with freedom. That’s where I trust Jaco [Kriel] to make the right decisions.”
They have a full throttle approach which is likely to test any visiting team‚ especially in a game with a 2.30pm kickoff.
The hosts have the added advantage of having progressed to last year’s final. They are more accustomed to walking the playoff tightrope.
“Hopefully the guys will understand the pressure that goes with a playoff‚” Ackermann said.
“You get one shot at it. If you don’t do things well, you’re out. The knowledge that all the work that you’ve put in over the months could come to nothing. We have to tap into that experience when we need to.”
The Lions have named an unchanged squad from last weekend. They opted to leave Rohan Janse van Rensburg on the bench.
Ackermann is aware that the game could potentially be his last game before he takes up a contract with Gloucester. Defeat is a prospect too ghastly to contemplate.
“I don’t think I get the time to think about it‚” Ackermann said. “There is so much happening.
“Obviously it is in the back of my mind but I don’t share it with the players because I don’t want to transfer more pressure. It’s not about me but about them.”
Meanwhile, the Stormers go into tomorrow’s Super Rugby quarterfinal against the Chiefs with more confidence than they did against the same opponents at the same stage last year.
Coach Robbie Fleck and captain Siya Kolisi projected quiet conviction that they are capable of winning only their second playoff match in nine attempts since 1999 when they meet the two-time champions at Newlands.
Last year, the Chiefs won the corresponding fixture 60-21 but this year the New Zealanders went down 34-26 in a pool match at Newlands.
It is that performance and result that has buoyed the Stormers for this weekend’s encounter.
“We’ve forgotten what happened last year and have rather focused on what we did to them this year‚” Kolisi said.
“This is a new game and we are a different side to what we were 12 months ago. But both games are in the past and we have to focus on our job this Saturday.”
Fleck named a fit-again SP Marais at fullback‚ which means Dillyn Leyds moves to left wing with Seabelo Senatla dropping to the bench.
Up-front flank Rynhardt Elstadt starts so Sikhumbuzo Notshe is benched, while reserve prop Steven Kitshoff falls out of the squad.