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Rugby | Vodacom Super Rugby

Sharks believe they can win it



Both teams that played in the Kings Park derby that ended their respective regular seasons will be looking to improve considerably when they play their all-or-nothing return game at the start of the Vodacom Super Rugby Finals Series on Saturday.

You’d say it is the Cell C Sharks who have a lot more to do than the Emirates Lions, who were not flattered at all by the 27-10 winning margin in an error-ridden and scrappy game. They should have won by more. But the Lions too were some way short of their best, and in some senses it sets up Saturday’s return quite well, particularly as it felt like the home team did not shoot their bullets in the match.

Perhaps it was the knowledge that a win would set them up for a long flight to Christchurch the next day rather than a much easier flight to Johannesburg much later in the week, but the Sharks didn’t play with the passion that pushed the Lions so close at Emirates Airlines Park in April.

As Sharks coach Robert du Preez pointed out afterwards, however, this week there is a big carrot dangling for his team and they have all to play for as they go out in a quest to define what has for them been an up-and-down season. He feels that when the time comes, his men will have the necessary self-belief to win it.

“It is a final for us, it is all to play for,” said Du Preez.

“Everything that has happened before is gone. Now it is a case of us having one crack at it, and it is in the players’ hands to take this chance. I think the players will go to Joburg believing they can win.”

Du Preez might well be secretly thinking it is a good thing his team appeared to underperform in Durban. It might just breed some complacency in the Lions’ ranks, and the Sharks have made a habit this season of being hot one week and cold the next. After two “cold” performances since the June break, the Sharks are due one of those “hot” performances, such as the one in Johannesburg in April, the good win in Buenos Aires or against the Stormers and Cheetahs.

However he was rightly not happy with his team’s last game of the season at Kings Park.

“The Lions outplayed us in every area of the game. So it was very disappointing and I just feel there was no effort,” said Du Preez in what has been a customary post-match refrain from him this season.

Du Preez has often said his team was out-passioned, and he clearly felt that way again at the weekend.

“Maybe you should ask the players, I can’t answer that question,” he said when asked why the performance was so lame.

“I do not mind losing if we have given off our best. The fans would be happy with that. But if you come out on your home ground and get beaten up and make so many errors that is just not good enough.”

Du Preez said that listening in on the referee’s microphone he could pick up that the Lions players were more talkative and energetic than his own team, and it made him wonder if the catch-22 aspect of the game, meaning that a win would have earned his team the short straw in the quarterfinals, perhaps did have an impact.

“There is no doubt we have a good rugby team, but you have to look at the mental state of mind of the players and how switched on they were. Maybe in the back of their minds was the possibility of travelling to New Zealand, I don’t know, but no way can that factor explain why we played so badly.”



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