A 5pm run out on the hard and fast Toyota Stadium track suggests there will still be plenty of running rugby in Saturday’s Currie Cup semi-final in Bloemfontein between Free State and the Sharks.
That means the visitors will have to ensure they have plenty of fuel in their tanks so as not to come to a screeching halt in the last 20 minutes when Cheetahs coach Franco Smith’s clever use of his bench normally takes effect.
“We know we are going to need to outscore them because conditions are going to be great for running rugby, it will be nice and cool with a 5pm kickoff. But we’re not going to change anything we do, we just need to be more accurate. Our defence wasn’t great at the start of the campaign, but we’ve upped the tempo and thanks to that we won our last game against the Cheetahs.
“They seem to change their bench from week to week, but it’s about us just being better at what we are doing, it’s not about us changing what we’re doing. It’s been good to bounce back from a few slip-ups at the beginning of the campaign when we knew it would be tough, but since then it’s gone to plan and we’ve hit some consistent form,” Sharks coach Sean Everitt said.
“Free State play a really good brand of rugby, they like to keep the ball. But if we focus on our defence then we know opportunities will come our way. Their bench also plays a big role in the last 20 minutes, so our bench has a huge role to play in matching-up and we have to be switched on to that,” captain Jeremy Ward said.
Sticking to the processes and not worrying about the outcome’ is definitely in the glossary of all modern rugby coaching manuals these days, but Everitt says the fact that his young side has had to come through three must-win games in a row will have prepared them well for the start of knockout rugby this weekend.
“It’s not about winning every week, that’s not something we speak about. But we basically had to win three-out-of-three so there was pressure and the way we fought back was excellent, so we’ve only lost two out of six. There was also a lot of pressure on the players to adapt to the new coaching staff. So reaching the final will be great for the players, that’s the most important thing.
“The guys have worked so hard and getting into the final and winning it would be the cherry on top for them. We had a number of goals coming in to the Currie Cup and we’ve achieved a lot of them. In terms of growth and looking to Super Rugby, we’ve achieved all we wanted and now we’re at the final goal,” Everitt said.