Johannesburg — In many respects, the Sharks made heavy weather of beating the Dragons last week with a maddening lack of consistency and clinical precision – factors that they can ill-afford to repeat against Leinster on Saturday.
The Dublin-based team are once again favourites to win the United Rugby Championship and have started the tournament with three victories over Zebre, Benetton and Ulster.
They are a team that will be packed with Test experience, playing at home in conditions they understand and appreciate.
Conversely, the Sharks are still without their current crop of Springboks, who will only be available for selection next week against Glasgow Warriors.
It will then be seemingly up to the same players that showed oodles of character to beat the Dragons 20-19 to once again do the business against the Irish juggernaut.
Phepsi Buthelezi was in the match-day 23 that squeaked past the Welsh side, and although he acknowledges the Boks and a handful of key injured players will have an impact when they return, he believes the stocks at the union are strong enough to beat any team.
“That is the beauty of our squad at the moment: we have so much depth in our squad that any team that we put out on the weekend can really go out there and compete,” Buthelezi explained on Tuesday.
“Yes, we are going to be without some of our Springboks, but I think that is not going to affect us in any way.
“We are going in to win this game, because whenever we get an opportunity in the Sharks jersey, we really want to go out there and perform.
“They are going to have all their internationals, but to us, that doesn’t really mean anything. We want to go out there and give it our all, and do the best to our ability.”
Buthelezi also agreed that the Durbanites will take solace from the fact that the Bulls travelled to Dublin last season for their crunch semi-final against Leinster, and against all expectation, returned to South Africa in triumph.
“Knowing what we can achieve that as a group certainly gives us a lot of confidence,” Buthelezi admitted of that 27-26 victory.
“We know our potential and we know that we have not even come close to that potential yet … We have an exceptional squad, (and) we really do believe we have everything, to not only win this game, but also the competition.”
To do so, the Sharks will have to start putting together, on a consistent basis, complete performances.
Such an outing was certainly absent this past week in a frustrating exercise. Moreover, Leinster will demand such a performance if the Sharks even hope of beating them in their own backyard.
“We’ve have had a look at the reasons behind those dips in our performances,” said Buthelezi.
“They are just a few technical things that we have been getting wrong. We’ve addressed them, and we certainly hope that this coming weekend we will put together a full 80-minute performance.”
Conditions at the RDS Arena are expected to be cool and overcast, with no rain forecast.
The heavy-laden fields of Europe might not be conducive to running rugby, but if the Sharks can dominate upfront, they have the opportunity, perhaps, to play an exciting style.