The Sharks are going to have to draw on their deepest deposits of physicality and energy for the full 80 minutes if they hope to get the better of the British and Irish Lions, according to coach Sean Everitt, which is why he named a bench with six forwards on it for their clash at Ellis Park on Wednesday night.
JJ van der Mescht and Reniel Hugo are the two locks on the bench, but it is not just brute force that the Shaks will require, but also the ability to play at a high tempo.
“It’s going to be a great challenge. We learnt a lot from their game against our Lions, who probably weren’t aware what an international team can bring,” Everitt said on Monday.
“They play at a high intensity – they’re always trying to speed the game up – which is something we have been working on, but we are not quite there yet. We are going to have to keep up for 80 minutes.”
Ensuring there are enough reserves in the kitty to still play high-tempo rugby in the final quarter is a challenge all South African teams are going to have to adapt to against European opposition, according to Everitt.
“In Europe there’s a big emphasis on ball-in-play time and that’s the biggest challenge from a South African point of view,” he said.
“Ulster and Leinster played a game recently where the ball-in-play time was 52 minutes, while in the last Currie Cup we were averaging 26-30 minutes. It’s why Rassie Erasmus (SA director of rugby) stepped in with a plan to increase that. The Lions game at the weekend had 39 minutes ball-in-play.
“It’s certainly something the Sharks have been working on. We want to play at a higher intensity because it’s what we’ll need later in the year, so this game against the Lions will be a good test of how far we still have to go.”
Meanwhile, forwards Tom Curry, Josh Navidi and Adam Beard will make their first appearances for the Lions after being included in the touring team for the Sharks clash.
Coach Warren Gatland has chosen a completely new run-on side for the match.
Tour skipper and scrum-half Conor Murray is among the replacements, with lock Iain Henderson filling the role of leader.
The Lions backline includes Duhan van der Merwe, a South Africa-born winger whose Six Nations performances for Scotland won him a tour place.
Manie Libbok, Werner Kok, Jeremy Ward, Marius Louw, Thaakir Abrahams, Curwin Bosch, Jaden Hendrikse, Phepsi Buthelezi (c), Thembelani Bholi, James Venter, Hyron Andrews, Ruben van Heerden, Khutha Mchunu, Fez Mbatha, Khwezi Mona.
Bench: Kerron van Vuuren, Ntuthuko Mchunu, Wiehahn Herbst, JJ van der Mescht, Reniel Hugo, Dylan Richardson, Grant Williams, Anthony Volmink.
British and Irish Lions
Liam Williams, Anthony Watson, Elliot Daly, Bundee Aki, Duhan van der Merwe, Dan Biggar, Gareth Davies, Sam Simmonds, Tom Curry, Josh Navidi, Adam Beard, Iain Henderson (c), Zander Fagerson, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Mako Vunipola.
Bench: Ken Owens, Rory Sutherland, Tadhg Furlong, Tadhg Beirne, Jack Conan, Conor Murray, Stuart Hogg, Chris Harris.