Sharks flanker Warren Britz says his team will put their cavalier approach on the back-burner when they face the Lions at Ellis Park on Saturday.
The Sharks have shown a penchant for free-flowing, ball-in-hand rugby this season but according to Britz they will be looking to keep it a lot closer to their pack who have largely been underrated this season.
Their forwards were a point of much criticism pre-season, with many analysts writing them off as being too light and inexperienced.
But the Vodacom Blue Bulls had a first-hand experience of just how wrong those doomsday prophets were when the Durban side dominated them in this facet of play in their first round encounter.
“I think in every game the play starts and ends with the forwards,” Britz told keo.co.za. “Without the fat boys doing the business up front the backs can’t get going.
“Against the Lions this will be a big focus of our game,” he added. “When you dominate up front it makes the game so much easier.”
The 32 year-old has been the unsung hero in an exceptional back row of AJ Venter and Jacques Botes. His ability to turnover possession at the breakdown coupled with a new-found fondness for carrying ball to the gain line has made him an invaluable asset.
“Ja, Dick and I always have a little wager on how many turnovers I can make in a game,” he laughed. “But recently I’ve really been enjoying having a few runs at the opposition.
“But my primary role will always be as a fetcher and I’ll try and steal as much ball as I can. You need a guy like that in your side. The All Blacks have Richie McCaw and I try to fill the same role he does.”
The trio honed their partnership during the Super 14 and the fruits of their extended run together are clear to see.
“You know, sometimes you don’t always need the best three guys in in your squad to play in your back row,” explained Britz. “It’s all about understanding and the understanding I’ve built with AJ and Jacque is great.
“We’ve got to the stage now where we know exactly what the other is going to do and the best thing is that we each throw something different into the pot in terms of skills.”
He asserts his statement that they will look to have a go at the Lions up front but warns that one shouldn’t expect a one-dimensional approach.
“Our unpredictability has been our big strength this season and with Brent [Russell] and JP [Pietersen] back in the side you’ll be silly to think we won’t look to get it to them.”
When assessing the Lions, he said the loss of Andre Pretorius to injury [shin splints] would be a significant blow to Eugene Eloff’s side.
“Andre is the cog that turns the wheel and without him they’ll struggle to have that same fluidity they had against the Bulls,” he said.
“But it’s going to be a tough game. We expect them to counter us in the forwards because that has been their strong point in recent games.
“Forget the people who are writing them off, this is the Lions at Ellis Park.”
By Ryan Vrede