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Sharks wary of "difficult" Highlanders

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sharksrugby.co.za     17 Jul 2014     Getty Images

Losing the match would have had no influence on their log finish, but victory was critical to build momentum and confidence ahead of this Saturday’s Investec Super Rugby quarter-final showdown with the Highlanders.

“It was a big confidence booster for us, just to see that what we’ve been doing all year is successful and we went back to that: solid defence, forwards working hard, better kicking game, better kick-chase game and we got the reward from that,” he explains.

“That all gives us a lot of confidence going into this week’s knockout match against the Highlanders.”

It was a dress-rehearsal of sorts for how they will need to play in the knockout rounds – defending heroically and scoring when opportunities are created.

“We’ve been playing knock-out rugby from Round One, but we went away from that a bit and that’s why I think we fell short [against the Stormers in May and the Cheetahs], but we put in a solid performance on the weekend now we’re back to playing winning rugby and so I think it’s a good way to kick off this knockout phase.”

Although this could be his last game played in Durban before he heads overseas, he removes any personal feeling out of the matter.

“There is no emotion around personal stuff, it’s all about finals rugby for us, we have three games to win the competition so we’re taking all emotion out of it, it’s all about the team and the union. It’s something we haven’t achieved before so that’s all we’re focussed on.”

Looking forward to the weekend’s game, he points out that the Highlanders are going to be excellent opposition, a team to be respected.

“They’re a very difficult team to play against, they showed that when we met them in Durban earlier in the season, and I think they will take confidence out of that performance,” he admits. “We know how dangerous they can be if our kicking game is off and our defence is not on song so those are two areas we will be working hard on in training this week.”

The Sharks will go into this game mindful of having lost the pool clash with the same side back in April.

“Our kicking game wasn’t accurate enough, we didn’t get out of our half, we gave them a lot of opportunities to counter-attack and that’s one of their strengths, they like broken play,” he admits. “So if we can avoid giving them good ball, it will be good for us.

“We definitely know not to underestimate them, which is a good thing. But it doesn’t matter who we play, it’s a quarter-final , we want to win. Fortunately we’re at home and hopefully that will count in our favour.”