Ken Borland
Sports Journalist
2 minute read
4 Jun 2022
8:01 am

‘Focus on yourselves,’ Everitt tells fired-up, ‘underdog’ Sharks

Ken Borland

'You have to focus on yourselves in quarterfinals because anyone from No 1 to No 8 can win."

Springboks Ox Nche (back) and Aphelele Fassi warming up for the Sharks. Picture: Steve Haag/Gallo Images

The Springbok-laden Sharks are happy to take the underdogs tag into their United Rugby Championship quarterfinal against the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday, even though coach Sean Everitt said it did not matter much and the most important thing in a knockout match was to “focus on yourselves”.

Everitt named a team on Friday with nine Springboks in the starting line-up, while the Bulls have four Springboks in their squad, none of them incumbents.

Little wonder then that the Sharks coach did not put much store in the underdogs tag, even if his players have been fired up by it.

Read more: Matfield says Bulls are clear favourites for URC playoff against Sharks

“Being called the underdog probably suits us and the players are very motivated by it,” Everitt said. “The Bulls are a formidable team to target at home, but fortunately we’ve had success in Pretoria and we are not too daunted by it.

“You have to focus on yourselves in quarterfinals because anyone from No.1 to No.8 can win. When you reach the knockouts, it’s about being in it.

“We’ve played good rugby along the way, and unfortunately not getting the result we wanted against Ulster does not make us a bad team. We’re taking a lot of confidence into this game, especially because of our success in the URC against the Bulls.

“Anything can happen on the day, we just have to make sure we focus on our processes and our discipline. And we can’t have soft moments in defence,” Everitt said.

Also read: Test of courage passed, but Sharks fail in execution

Apart from defensive solidity, the Sharks are going to require a continuation of their recent set-piece dominance over the Bulls and composure under pressure.

“The Bulls have improved their set-piece, but we need that dominance in a knock-out game. That, defence and territory are the three important things and you need all of them.

“The Bulls have really developed their attack well since we beat them in February, they counter-attack well and their kick-return metres have almost doubled. But there are still opportunities for us there.

“At times we have performed really well, but there have been some unfortunate slip-ups. Some of those were controllable, others were not.

“But as a whole we have improved as a team and I am very happy with where we are at. It’s very important for our big players to stand up, their experience is going to be important to bring that calmness we need to be able to focus,” Everitt said.