Cell C Sharks vs The Emirates Lions Match Preview

When the Cell C Sharks host the Emirates Lions at Hollywoodbets Kings Park on Saturday afternoon in a local Vodacom United Rugby Championship derby, they will know they’ve been in a fight.

After taking on international opposition over the last month or so, the South African sides are now engaged in local derbies and this offers the opportunity to measure how far they’ve come.

Cell C Sharks head coach Sean Everitt admits that they are aware of the enormity of what’s to come against a Lions’ side that has enjoyed much improvement in recent weeks.

“We know that the Lions have come a long way from where they were, especially in the derby games and they’ve grown a lot over the last few weeks, so we know we face a big challenge on Saturday,” Everitt explains.

“All the teams have improved as the tournament has gone on and that’s to be expected when teams have played together for some time, it’s the first time in a long time that we’ve had a string of fixtures together and it’s a good measure of where we are.”

Identifying the key areas of improvement for the Lions, the Cell C Sharks coach believes that it’s more than just one area.

“If you look at their results since Jordan Hendrikse has been back, they have improved a lot, but one also has to give credit to their defence, they have defended with a lot of character and energy and I think that’s the area they’ve improved in the most.

“We also know the Lions go hard at the ball at defensive breakdowns so we’re going to have to be sharp when we have ball in hand.”

Everitt’s hopes for his own team’s performance centre strongly on closing out the opportunities created, and area they have had mixed results in.

“Over the last couple of weeks, we had that tough result against Edinburgh, we dominated every aspect of that game but didn’t get over the chalk. I though we strung some phases together and played some attacking rugby when presented with the opportunity against the Dragons last Friday.

“We all understand where the Dragons are on the log, but they put out a stronger team than the one against the Bulls the previous week and in saying that, to put 50 points on a team you have to be playing really well.”

Although the Cell C Sharks scrum has been dominating opponents recently, they’re up against a formidable unit and the set-piece provides a good opportunity for further measurement.

“It’s a challenge we’re looking forward to, there’s been a lot of talk about the Lions’ scrum and deservedly so,” Everitt explains. “They have the most effective scrum in the competition, winning the most scrum penalties which has allowed their loose forwards to get into the game and they’re playing really good rugby at the moment.

“But we’ve been very good over the last few weeks, we’ve got ascendancy over the opposition which has given us good field position. “It’s going to be an interesting tussle, we have the incumbent Springbok front row and we know they pose a threat there, as they did at Emirates Airline Park when we played them in the first round.”