Preview: Golden Lions v Sharks

Date published: October 17 2014

The Golden Lions will be out for revenge when they host the Sharks in their Currie Cup semi-final in Johannesburg on Saturday.

The Golden Lions will be out for revenge when they host the Sharks in their Currie Cup semi-final in Johannesburg on Saturday.

Two weeks ago, these sides met in a league match in Durban and the Sharks claimed a morale-boosting 26-23 victory.

While that result secured the Sharks’ place in the semi-finals it proved costly for the Lions as it cost them the top spot on the table as the Durban-based outfit also beat eventual tabletoppers Western Province last weekend.

The Lions enjoy a fast-paced 15-man game which has proved successful throughout their campaign.

While knockout matches favour a conservative approach, the home side’s coach Johan Ackermann said they would not deviate from the expansive game plan that got them this far into the competition.

“We are not going to change anything, we can’t put these players in a box, they want to play, they want to enjoy and express themselves,” he revealed.

Ackermann said the team would nevertheless be calculated when penalties came their way.

“In the round-robins you tend to kick to the corner and play on but from our side we are just going to focus on the process,” he added.

Although the entire Lions team have done well to get them to this stage of the competition, one of their biggest success stories has been the performance of their back row.

Spearheaded by captain and number eight Warren Whiteley, whose leadership and attacking style of play is complimented by the ball-winning prowess of Derick Minnie and Jaco Kriel’s fine athletic ability, the Sharks will have to neutralise this dangerous trio if they want to reach next weekend’s final.

Ackermann has also brought in Blitzbokke stalwart Kwagga Smith to his matchday squad which means the Lions effectively have three loose forwards on their bench as Warwick Tecklenburg and Willie Britz, who will give cover at lock, are also amongst the replacements.

Smith’s inclusion on the bench gives a clear indication of the Lions’ intentions as they opt for mobility instead of bulk with prop Jacques van Rooyen moving out of the side.

After impressing during the tournament’s early stages, the Sharks hit a lean patch after a three match winless streak – following a draw with the Free State Cheetahs and defeats to the Pumas and Griquas.

At one stage, they were in danger of missing the play-offs but turned things around with four successive victories over the Blue Bulls, Eastern Province Kings, the Lions and WP.

Despite their narrow victory over the Lions a fortnight ago, the defending champions’ coach Brad Macleod-Henderson expected a tougher assignment this time around.

“We played some nice rugby when we beat them in Durban, but that counts for nothing now,” he said.

“It’s a new game, a new challenge, a new week and we are preparing accordingly.

“It’s going to be a huge task going up to Ellis Park, but a challenge we’re looking forward to. We will have to play for the full 80 minutes, defensively we need to be strong and our set-piece needs to function well.”

Sharks centre Sbura Sithole echoed his coach’s sentiments and said he expected a far different proposition from the Lions this time around.

“I think the Lions will be a bit more clinical compared to when we played them here earlier in the season,” he explained.

“It’s crunch time now and there’s no room for errors.

“Going up there to Joburg, with their home ground advantage and crowd getting behind, it won’t be easy. But it won’t make any difference to how we want to play on Saturday.”

Ones to watch:

For Golden Lions: The home side’s Springbok fly-half Marnitz Boshoff has proven on several occasions that he is a matchwinner and the Sharks know if they can keep him in check they could be on course for victory. While his goal-kicking is his main fort