Preview: Cell C Sharks vs Lions

The Cell C Sharks commitments in the pool stages of this year’s Vodacom Super Rugby competition close out with one of the biggest games as they host the high-riding Lions at Growthpoint KINGS PARK on Saturday.

Cell C Sharks head coach Robert du Preez has picked the strongest side possible for this match against last year’s finalists.

“Aside from Beast who’s struggling with a neck strain, we’re at full strength,” he explained.

He admitted that they were possibly facing their toughest game of the year against a side that has certainly been lethal at times and a unit that has been together for some years now; a team that knows how to win.

“There’s certainly a lot to play for and we need to get our campaign properly back on track with a good performance going into the quarter-finals. And they have a lot to play for as well; it’s going to be exciting.

“Playing the Lions on Saturday, and then potentially a New Zealand side in our quarter-final, we needed to up the intensity in training over the last two weeks, as well as up the ball-in-play time.”

Although history is in the past, what the Cell C Sharks can take out of the round one match against the Lions in Johannesburg is confidence out of the fact that they came close to defeating the team in second position on the log, still with a chance to finish on top and secure the right to host the final – should they get there.

“We felt very unlucky not to win that game, we did play well, hopefully we can have a repeat performance, but winning the game this time,” said du Preez.

Where does the coach believe the game will be won?

“We are going to have to be really accurate with our set-pieces and we are going to have to put their key players under pressure. They’re a team that if you give them any opportunities, they will take them, so we are also going to have to be very accurate on defence.”

Although this is a huge game, the coach admitted that the Cell C Sharks cannot go into their shells and play conservatively.

“We will take our opportunities when they present themselves; the disappointing thing about our game against the Bulls was that every time we took the ball wide, we managed to get over the advantage line but then lost the ball. We can’t afford that on Saturday.”

Captain Philip van der Walt also said he was expecting a huge game against a side brimming with self-belief.

“They will take a lot of confidence out of the fact that many of their pack came from the Springboks, as well as the way they have played, particularly after the break in their match against the Sunwolves.

“We expect a team full of confidence, full of running, full of excitement We’ll have to weather the storm but the guys are excited and up for. Especially after the disappointing game against the Bulls.

“We back ourselves, having already proved to them that once we get going, we can also be pretty lethal.”