During a team talk, former coach John Plumtree asked his squad what the plan would be should it turn out to be a wet weather game, with one of the players finally pitching in with an answer.
After the laughter that followed had eventually died down, Plumtree reminded his team that it was in fact a closed roof stadium.
Indeed, the “indoor” atmosphere of the stadium known colloquially as 'the glasshouse' does add out a slightly different dynamic to tomorrow’s encounter between the Sharks and Highlanders, but what doesn’t change is the desperate need for the Durban side to emerge victorious.
It’s been nearly a month since the Sharks’ implosion against the Crusaders, and while there have since been signs of improvement against the Lions and Bulls, a three-match losing streak has left their play-off hopes hanging by a thread.
Nevertheless, director of rugby Gary Gold said they hadn’t given up hope of progressing to the knockout stage despite dwindling down in 10th place on the overall log.
“I’m not into predictions, but at the end of the day, we realise that mathematically, we still have a chance to resurrect this season and give ourselves a chance to get into play-off contention, and that’s what our focus is. Our immediate focus though is on this game ahead of us. We’ve prepared well, and we know that we have some very tough games coming up on tour.
“But the guys have really embraced the tour and we’ve had some fantastic training,” he added. “It will be a tough contest in Dunedin, but if we play well and can pick up a good result, then we can build up a nice head of steam and have a good, successful tour; that’s the goal.”
Last year, the dangerous Highlanders upset the Sharks at home on the eve of their overseas tour, and so there will be vivid memories of the dangers posed by X-factor player such as Aaron and Ben Smith, Patrick Osborne and Malakai Fekitoa.
“With the position we’re in, obviously it’s another real challenge to take on a team of the Highlanders’ quality,” Gold commented. “They’re outstanding at home and have really made great strides under (coach) Jamie (Joseph). There were signs of their improvement last year already. They have a big abrasive pack and lethal backs, so they’re a difficult proposition.”
Gold also admitted that the factor of an indoor stadium could not be completely overlooked.
“Obviously the weather won’t be a consideration because of the roof, which was always a neutralising factor for them in the past because of the rain and difficult conditions. So it does definitely work in their favour now.”
The Highlanders have been impressive this season, winning six games out of nine, but they’re coming off the back of a disappointing defeat to the Brumbies in a game that did reveal certain vulnerabilities.
“We saw with that game that if you stick to your basics well, you can be successful against the Highlanders,” Gold mused. “But the Highlanders will be smarting after that loss to the Brumbies, no doubt, so it will be a very tough challenge. But what better way to begin turning our season around then to overcome a strong Highlanders team at home?”
Original source: Sharks desperate for win