Flyhalf Frederic Michalak, who received the man-of-the-match award in last Saturday's Super Rugby semi-final against the Stormers, will be a key player for the Sharks in this weekend's final against the Chiefs in Hamilton. Picture: Luke Walker/ Gallo Images
Sharks assistant coach Grant Bashford says the team has the belief and the ability to defy the odds one more time to win this Saturday’s Super Rugby final against the Chiefs in Hamilton (9.35am kick-off SA time).
After beating both the Reds and Stormers away from home on successive weekends, the Sharks have travelled overseas once again. and will be determined to produce one more big effort that will be required if they are to secure their first ever Super Rugby title.
“The win over the Stormers was a brave performance,” Bashford said. “We didn’t talk or worry about the travel in the week and ended up really just gutsing out the win.
“I’m not sure this sort of travel has ever been done before and if we were to win on Saturday, I think all the sports science details about travel fatigue would go out the window. We’re in unchartered territory now, but jet-lag is going to be the least of our worries. We’ll just focus on ensuring we prepare for the final as best we can.”
Bashford said the Sharks had risen to the challenge of having to win high-pressure matches and were now riding a wave of confidence.
“The group has grown tremendously,” Bashford admitted. “For us it’s almost as if the play-offs started six weeks ago because we couldn’t drop a game from then or we would have missed out on the play-offs. The guys have really just embraced the challenge and now we have one big one left. The players are under no illusions as to the enormity of the task that lies ahead, but we have the belief that we can do it.
“The bodies are obviously tired, the competition has been going since February, but now it’s just about one last 80 minute effort. We have to just forget about the pain and just focus on this achievement that we can complete. We will be up for it that’s for sure, and it really comes down to mental strength now.”
He admitted, though, that it was going to require one massive final effort against the New Zealand conference-winning Chiefs.
“The Chiefs have really been the in-form team and the most consistent side in New Zealand. They deserve to be hosting the final. Their backs and forwards have both been playing well, with their set-piece having really improved and their pack providing front-foot ball for the likes of players such as Aaron Cruden and Sonny Bill Williams. We played them in Durban after getting back from New Zealand, and we were in that game right until the end. We know what a threat they will pose. Our message, though, is for the team to just keep doing what they’ve been doing.”