Kees Lensing says despite the Vodacom Cheetahsâ€™ aura of invincibility at Vodacom Park the Sharks will be confident of victory on Saturday.
The Cheetahs have faltered only once (against the Vodacom Bulls) at home in their Absa Currie Cup campaign but Lensing insists the Sharks have the ability to double that loss tally.
â€œThe Bulls have beaten them in Bloemfontein this season and their game this weekend at Loftus shows that they are not unbeatable,â€ he told Keo.co.za. â€œWe know weâ€™ll have to be at our best, but we wonâ€™t be intimidated at having to play away and are confident that we can come away with the win.â€
The Durban-based side has already lost thrice to the defending champions this season (once in the Super 14 and twice in the Currie Cup), and should be weary of premature predictions of victory. But Lensing insists that while the Cheetahs will pose a formidable multidimensional threat, the lessons theyâ€™ve learnt from their past encounters will be the basis on which their gameplan will be built.
â€œThey have the best defence in the competition, so scoring tries will require innovative and intelligent play,â€ Lensing said. â€œEarly this season their backline was perceived to be a weakness but that has obviously been proven to be a fallacy.
â€œWe know they will try and dominate us up front, because at the end of the day, the game begins and ends with the forwards,â€ he explained. â€œWeâ€™ll be prepared for that and ready to put some serious pressure on their pack just like the Bulls did on Saturday. I donâ€™t think they coped well under pressure then and showed that they might be vulnerable in that area.â€
Lensing was guarded when asked if the Sharks would employ a similar kick-based tactic to what they utilised a fortnight ago but suggested that his side would build on the positive aspects of the narrow 37-35 defeat.
â€œIt was so close the last time we played that it would be foolish to change too much of our gameplan. The great thing about this team though is that we are able to adapt to whatever the game situation demands, so even if they do look to punt it behind us we wonâ€™t be limited to punting it back.
â€œOur outside backs are really dangerous and provide great counterattacking options.â€
The teams enter the contest having played two sides on polar ends of the continuum. While the Sharks pummeled a hapless Valke team in Durban, the Cheetahs were engaged in a titanic clash with the Bulls.
Dick Muir opted to rest his key players (Lensing included) while Rassie Erasmus was scampering to field a full-strength side. Lensing however was non-committal on whether these factors would benefit the Sharks.
â€œIn a semi-final everybody raises their game irrespective of how they are feeling physically. Sometimes itâ€™s good to play a tough game leading into a major match like this and sometimes not.
â€œWhat I do know is that both sides wonâ€™t give an inch and that is going to make for a great game.â€
By Ryan Vrede