The Stormers, on a four-match winning streak, will be looking to retain their momentum in their final match of the season while the Sharks, who arrive at Newlands on the back of successive defeats, desperately need to win to improve their playoff fortunes. Depending on the outcome of the Crusaders/Highlanders game in Christchurch, earlier on Saturday, the Sharks may be looking for a bonus point as well as a win.
The Sharks and the Crusaders are joint second with 46 points each, but the latter has a better points difference. Which ever team is above the other by Saturday night will enjoy a bye next week along with the log-leaders, the Waratahs, who are in an unassailable position.
“The message is plain and clear — we need to get on the plane and get a result there,” Sharks director of rugby Jake White said.
“If you are going to go into these playoffs, you need to get some winning momentum and some cohesion going. We want to make sure we win.”
White dreaded the possibility of going into the match needing a bonus point to secure the favourable second place.
“The Stormers have shown in the past it is difficult to get a bonus point there at the best of times.
“In a lot of ways, with nothing to gain, it gives the Stormers a lot of freedom because it doesn’t feel like they have a noose around their neck.
“At the beginning of the year, people said the Stormers and the Sharks were among the two strongest squads in the competition, and that has not changed.”
The Stormers last week ended the Bulls’ playoff hopes and their coach Allister Coetzee said his team would not concern themselves with the Sharks’ playoff fortunes.
“We need to focus on ourselves, and not on the Sharks,” Coetzee said.
“The important thing for us is to pitch up like we have the past few weeks, like we did against the Bulls last week and to show that same kind of intensity.
“This last match is an important one because we definitely would like to end the 2014 season on a high. If we don’t get the result it will be a bit of a setback for us.”
Stormers captain Schalk Burger said the team’s primary ambition to win would not be overshadowed by players making their final appearance for the Newlands-based franchise on Saturday.
“At end of the day this game is all about giving those players a special send-off, but they will be the first to say that it should not be about them,” said the flanker, who himself was set to turn out for Japanese club Suntory Sungoliath in August.
“That has been our attitude in the past when we have played marquee games, and it hasn’t worked. We have tended to come off second best in the big occasion matches. When I played my 50th game we lost, when Jean de Villiers played his 50th and his 100th we lost, and that seems to have been the trend, so maybe we should do it differently this time.”
Deon Fourie, who would miss out on Saturday with a torn hamstring, departs for Lyon, along with Pat Cilliers, who moves to Montpellier, and Gio Aplon to Grenoble.