Lions coach Loffie Eloff believes the breakdown could be the decisive facet of play when his side meet the Sharks in the Absa Currie cup semi-final in Durban.
Both sides have a penchant for attacking play and will be acutely aware that they will have to be clinical in their ruck cleans if they are to generate the continuity that allows them to deplete the opposition’s defensive line. Eloff, whose side crept into the play-offs despite a defeat to Western Province on Saturday, also noted the danger the Sharks pose from turnover ball.
“The Sharks, like [Western] Province, are very dangerous when they turn over ball,” Eloff said. “Both these teams will punish you severely when they secure turnovers.
“If the Lions open up the game and are not accurate and make errors, these two sides make you pay. So we will have to be much more clinical at the breakdowns. We’ll wait for them [the Sharks] to come clean out the rucks because that’s where it will be the real test of character.
If the Lions had won their final round match in Cape Town they would have finished third and set up a semi-final against the Pretoria-based Blue Bulls. Eloff, however, said he had no preference for any team.
“Whether we had to play in Durban or Pretoria it is going to be tough. We have a good track record in Durban and ideally I would love the team to travel as little as possible but it does not matter now. We’ve reached the play-offs and that’s it,” said Eloff, whose team won their Currie Cup semi-final at Kings Park in 2007.
Eloff also started the mind games by making reference to the 12-year title drought the Sharks are enduring. “Look, it’s been a long time since the Sharks have last won the Currie Cup so they will be feeling the pressure.”