Not giving away possession or penalties is what the Sharks have identified as the key things they need to rectify as they go into their Rainbow Cup match against the Lions on Saturday on the back of successive defeats to the Bulls and Stormers, according to lock Reniel Hugo.
The setbacks have left the Sharks four points adrift of the log-leading Bulls and sitting in third place below the Stormers on points difference. If the Lions win at Ellis Park on Saturday then they could actually leapfrog the KwaZulu-Natalians.
“It’s not nice having two losses behind our names but we have the opportunity to rectify our mistakes this weekend,” Hugo said on Tuesday.
“We are conceding a lot of penalties and that just allows the opposition to kick out and set the rolling maul, which then takes a lot of energy to defend. So we have been working very hard on our discipline so we don’t concede penalties and also on keeping the ball.
“Against the Bulls we had to defend more than a dozen rolling mauls and sometimes your legs just give in. But sometimes it’s just one guy coming in at the wrong place and that breaks the system. A few guys have made mistakes and I was one of them. As an older guy, hopefully I can bring a bit more experience and try and get the team to gel together better.”
The Sharks have won their last four matches in Johannesburg, dating back to their 26-19 Super Rugby defeat in their opening game of 2018, and Hugo said their focus is squarely on becoming the first South African team to contest the Rainbow Cup final.
“The Lions lost their first three games, but they weren’t big losses and they had lots of opportunities to win,” he said.
“It just shows that all four teams in this competition are very good and the quality of rugby is such that there are no easy games. So it’s going to be very important for us to be clinical, we must stop them, get turnovers and create opportunities for ourselves.
“But the Lions showed how tough this competition is when they beat the Bulls to open the Rainbow Cup up massively. If we can now win both these last games then we’ll be in with a shout of playing in that final in Italy.”