WITH the Lions being SA’s premier counterattacking team, Sharks director of rugby Gary Gold is aware of how long the shift will be for his Durban team on Saturday if they do not protect the ball well.
“Rugby is a simple game, but the margins and the pendulum swings are very small,” Gold said. “We want to play ball-in-hand rugby, but are there areas in the field and are there times in the game where you play too much rugby?
“It’s about getting that balance right and making the right decisions and when those decisions are made, it’s then about executing them better,” he said.
“In our five games, we’ve had 77 opportunities from the halfway line and 138 in all to play the ball in the other teams’ half and we haven’t used those opportunities fully.
“We just need to be a bit harder with ourselves in terms of protecting the ball.”
Last week’s Lions-Crusaders game is the kind of rugby Gold wants his team to play without losing their new-found defensive firmness. While the Sharks may not lack for ambition as their decent Super Rugby log position suggests, they are not quite there in terms of executing a hi-octane game plan.
The Sharks may have put their bodies on the line in a losing effort against the Crusaders, but Gold cautioned against reading too much into the Lions losing to the Crusaders at Ellis Park.
There is only one change to the Sharks XV that started against the Crusaders with Daniel du Preez starting at No8 in Philip van der Walt’s injury-enforced absence, with Keegan Daniel on the bench.
“We have to do the business against a very good Lions team that will ask a lot of questions of us with ball in hand,” Gold said. “We have to be ready for the threat they are going to bring, but we also want to create a threat of our own.
“The lesson from the Crusaders-Lions game is that when you do keep ball in hand, there will be opportunities that present themselves,” Gold said.
“You could take something from the fact that the Lions did leak 40-plus points, but it’s dangerous to go down that route. The Crusaders have an excellent attacking game, and that’s something we want to improve on.”