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SHARKS coach John Plumtree has admitted that a semifinal spot in this year's Super 14 might be just out of reach.
The Sharks, who travel to Ellis Park Stadium for a date with the Lions on Saturday, are paying the price for a poor start to the season. They lost their five opening matches.
Though they managed to snap that streak with three wins on the trot, they are still 10th on the log with 16 points from eight games.
Asked how many points should be good enough for a place in the semifinals, Plumtree told Sowetan: "Historically it's been around 40 points. There's still 25 points available (but) we'd have to win every game. We might be out of it, but we'll keep trying."
The Sharks would need to win their five remaining matches with bonus points to have any chance of making it to the semifinals (with 41 points). And with fixtures against the in-form Bulls in Pretoria and the Stormers at home still to come, that will take some doing.
Even the toothless Lions can never be counted out in a derby match and Plumtree admitted that the loss of star No 8 Ryan Kankowski, fellow loose-forward Keegan Daniel and centre Adrian Jacobs had been a huge blow.
Of the trio Kankowski's absence is probably the most telling as he has been the standout player for the Sharks .
Big Willem Alberts, a former Lions star, will fill in for Kankowski but he is more the iron fist to Kankowski's velvet glove.
"It doesn't mean we'll change our game," Plumtree said. "Willem Alberts gives us different options and poses different defensive problems for the Lions."
The winless hosts, meanwhile, look set to abandon their cavalier approach to the competition that has seen Dick Muir's charges concede a whopping 354 points this season, with talk of appointing a defensive coach.
Kickoff is at 5.05pm.