With just three league games remaining for the Chiefs, the battle to get in the mix for next season's new-look European Champions Cup is beginning to intensify.
The Chiefs and the Sharks have made no secret of the fact that they want to be part of Europe's elite again next term, so the stakes are high ahead of what promises to be a keenly-fought encounter at Sandy Park.
Buoyed by last weekend's 38-33 win over his former club Worcester Warriors, Horstmann says it's vital the Chiefs maintain their winning focus, but at the same time eradicate some of the errors which slipped into their play at Sixways.
“Sale are one of the form teams, they have run in a few good performances and they have got their tails up, so that is going to be a real battle for sure, but we are taking it game by game, and we need to keep focusing on ourselves,” said Horstmann. “We are doing a lot of good things, and we need to keep focusing on those and keep repeating them week in and week out, and if we can cut out the small errors, then hopefully we will get better and better and then see where we are at the end of the season.”
An area of concern highlighted by the Chiefs in the aftermath of last week's victory was their unusually high penalty count, which ended 17-3 in the Warriors' favour. Such figures did not make for happy viewing for Exeter head coach Rob Baxter, who has been keen to address the matter with his troops this past seven days.
“We gave away far too many penalties and kept Worcester in the game, and we needed to trust our defence more, but credit to them, they kept piling on the pressure," added Horstmann. “Giving away so many penalties is something for us to look at, it is not really acceptable and not really us. We have been working on that, so we will have a good look at it this week and try and put that right.”
But whilst discipline may have caused an issue in Chiefs circles, attacking-wise Exeter were in scintillating form as tries from Dave Lewis, Sam Hill, Gareth Steenson and Jack Yeandle (2) helped them to secure a five-point maximum in the Midlands.
“It was nice to have the bonus point by half-time, but that was probably a little bit of our problem as well, the fact we knew we had secured it,” admitted the 32-year-old. “We spoke about it at half-time, that we wanted to hammer the result home and get out of reach of them, but just a couple of unforced errors and a couple of penalties, and they kept piling on the pressure.”
A couple of days before the game at Sixways, it was confirmed that the seventh-placed team in the Premiership will face the equivalent in the French Top 14 in an end-of-season play-off to determine who will go into the new European Champions Cup next season, and Horstmann said that had focused the players’ minds.
“There is something there for us,” he said. “After the LV= Cup, we had a couple of poor weeks by our standards, so we wanted to get back on track, the weather is improving as well, and we want to show people what we are about. We let too many tries in against Worcester, but we also scored a few good ones.”
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