Apart from the daunting task of trying to make the Rainbow Cup final, the Sharks are adamant that they cannot entertain the thought of the Bulls beating them on their home turf when they meet in the crunch final round of South African fixtures in Durban on Saturday.
In order to top the South African standings and get to travel to Italy to take on Benneton Treviso, the Sharks have to win the game with a bonus point and deny the Bulls any log points. And they need to do that with a side weakened by what coach Sean Everitt described as “a few niggles we are trying to push through”.
Because of that, their bench will only be announced on Friday, “once we have more clarity on injuries”, but the starting line-up revealed on Thursday is missing wing Sbu Nkosi and loose-forward Henco Venter and there are concerns over the two reserve props, Ntuthuko Mchunu and Wiehahn Herbst.
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But Everitt says the Sharks will not be lying down even if their Rainbow Cup hopes are dashed because they have endured some painful defeats in Pretoria over the last year and they don’t want to suffer the same fate at home.
“Psychologically it’s important that we lead on the scoreboard at the end of the day, and I’ve told the players that we first have to win the game anyway and then go for the bonus point,” Everitt said.
“The players want to make Kings Park a fortress, although we narrowly let that slip against the Stormers. They were disappointed with how we went down in the last 20 minutes of the last game against the Bulls in Pretoria.
“But we have also won games coming from behind at the death and the players want to show their character. It’s important we get one over the Bulls regardless of whether we qualify for the final or not.
“We were narrowly beaten by the Bulls in the Currie Cup final and we want to bounce back and turn the tide against them. The energy and motivation this week is the best it’s been.”
After the impressive win over the Lions last weekend, it has taken a bit of finesse in selection for Everitt to both reward the players who shone at Ellis Park and reintegrate his Springboks.
“We took a changed team to the Lions, where we had to get the bonus point win which is never easy, and the guys really turned up and did very well. So this is another opportunity for many of them and they are good enough for that, we just want to build on that performance,” Everitt said.
“But it’s also about my relationship with the international players and I never question their efforts. They got us to where we are now, many of them are world champions and a guy like Lukhanyo Am is our captain who has played well every week.”
Sharks: Aphelele Fassi, Anthony Volmink, Lukhanyo Am (capt), Marius Louw, Makazole Mapimpi, Curwin Bosch, Jaden Hendrikse, Phepsi Buthelezi, Thembelani Bholi, Siya Kolisi, Hyron Andrews, JJ van der Mescht, Khutha Mchunu, Kerron van Vuuren, Khwezi Mona. Bench: To be confirmed.