A cheerless, rainy evening is predicted for Belfast on Friday night when the Sharks take on Ulster in their vital United Rugby Championship match at the Kingspan Stadium, and coach Sean Everitt knows his team have to be on fire from the start to secure a home quarterfinal.
The Sharks have, at least, plenty of experience of playing in the rain this season, and so they have the game-plan in place.
It will all come down to their accuracy in executing that from the start, against an Ulster team that is notoriously difficult to break down thanks to their excellent defence and discipline.
“There’s rain predicted and it’s a strong percentage likelihood,” Everitt said from Northern Ireland on Thursday.
“But we’ve played at home in the rain a lot. The difference is in the temperature of the rain – warm in Durban but really cold here – but our game model allows us to adjust.
“We have an all-round brand of rugby that has a mix of attacking kicking and very good defence. In any pressure game, your start is really important, but especially in wet conditions where it is hard to come back.”
Lukhanyo Am returns
The return of Lukhanyo Am, ever reliable on defence and exciting on attack, to outside centre has brought some cheer, but the first-choice lock pairing of Gerbrandt Grobler and Le Roux Roets, who were both unavailable to tour, will be missed in a match that is expected to be a tough grind. They are replaced by Ruben van Heerden and Reniel Hugo, with Hyron Andrews on the bench.
“Gerbrandt is unfortunately injured and he is one guy who has played at Kingspan before. And Le Roux’s wife is expecting their baby, so we are very happy for him,” Everitt said.
“We know we’re going to need to stand up physically against Ulster. They keep ball in hand really well with their conservative approach, and they have a strong kicking game and defence.
“We’re going to need to be patient and attack the space when it presents itself. And our discipline needs to improve.”