Jake asks for more of the same from Sharks

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As far as preparations for knockout games go, the Sharks couldn’t have asked for a better dress-rehearsal for Saturday’s Super Rugby quarter-final against the Highlanders than the derby match against the Stormers.

In a play-off game, all you need to progress to the next round is as little as a one-point victory – forget the bonus points or points’ differential – and to defend when you are called upon to lay collective bodies on the line and score when the opportunity is there.

“I was asked afterwards what is going to be needed to win this comp and I said, ‘Copy and Paste’ – it equals everything we want in play-off games,” explained Director of Rugby Jake White.

For him, the match against the Stormers pretty much mirrors what will be required of his team when they take on the Highlanders this Saturday at Kings Park, and if they are victorious, then against the Crusaders in the semi-final in Christchurch.

“In the Stormers’ game we had to work hard; we defended well, we were down 7-3 but kept chipping away; we got the reward. That’s the blue print to winning finals. The other thing that came out of it is that you are going to get x-number of moments to change the game and you have to take them.

“The difference between the pool stages and finals rugby is going for bonus points as you are, and don’t forget, they are vital because we see that one point is the difference between getting and missing out on a home semi.

“So to get that kind of rugby as a dress-rehearsal is something you want to make sure you can replicate now over the next three weeks.”

White confirmed that the side is in good health as they nurse long term injuries back to fitness and manage any players who may have concerns.

The team’s chance of winning must be balanced by the need to win each game with having fit players come in only when ready so as to prolong the team’s longevity in the tournament.

There is an element of risk to that, but it’s one of those darned if you do, darned if you don’t circumstances.

With the Sword of Damocles hanging over a team in this position, the balancing act must take into consideration having the best team available at all times without bowing to the pressure or appeal of selecting a player before he is ready and risk his breaking down again.

“JP Pietersen seems alright, there are injuries but it’s about managing what we need to,” said White.

“What I’ve learned is that you’re never going to have your ideal team on the field, you’re never going to have everyone fit and available. We just need to manage what we have, who is available and get them mentally ready for the weekend.”

He added that Pat Lambie and Tendai Mtawarira should be ready but weren’t definite inclusions. “It’s about how or when they slot in at this stage.”

Sharksrugby.co.za

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