Aiming for the top

2009-08-22 00:00

THE changes keep a coming but the mood has remained constant and the young, patched-up Sharks have high hopes of knocking Griquas from the top of the Currie Cup log at King’s Park this afternoon.

The second-placed Sharks, with injuries and the coming-and-going of Springboks, will field a team showing seven changes — two positional — to the line-up which defended superbly and counter-attacked brilliantly to beat the Lions 30-19 at Ellis Park a week ago.

Head coach John Plumtree has had to juggle his resources with the return of Boks Waylon Murray and Johann Muller off-set by the departure of Tri-Nation squad members Odwa Ndungane, Ryan Kankwoski and Jannie du Plessis, and the injuries to Riaan Swanepoel and Patric Cilliers.

Plumtree may be facing the log-leading Griquas without 13 first-choice selections but he has every confidence in the depth in the squad.

“The players are enjoying themselves and they are playing for each other. As a coach you cannot ask for more than that.”

The enthusiastic response of the young Sharks team to the Lions challenge at Ellis Park last Saturday underlined the strength of the current squad with their close and committed support, both in defence and attack, a feature of the win.

Even Plumtree admits he has been “surprised” by the quality of the rugby produced by some of his young reserves — among them flyhalves Monty Dumond and Guy Cronje — after they had been rushed into the frontline.

But Plumtree said the Sharks would have their hands full against Griquas this afternoon.

“They have a good, physical pack of forwards and much of their game revolves around their halfbacks (Naas Olivier and Sarel Pretorius). But they are also well-balanced. They have scored the most tries in the competition and they also have big kickers in their flyhalf (Olivier and fullback (Riaan Viljoen).”

He said that the set pieces and the breakdown would be the key areas.

“We did not scrum well against the Lions and we will have to make sure we win our set pieces but we also have to be accurate and physical at the breakdown if we are to get the ball we need to attack.”

Plumtree is hoping that promising U21 tighthead Wiehahn Herbst will help solve the scrummaging problem while his excellent backrow of Keegan Daniel, Jean Deysel and Jacques Botes should provide the Sharks with a crucial edge at the breakdown.

Griquas were unlucky to lose their unbeaten record to the Blue Bulls when they went down 24-25 in Kimberley last Saturday. They have also shown that they are no longer bad travellers and have beaten both the Lions and Free State away from home this season.

Griquas have been boosted by the return of loosehead prop Albertus Buckle and hooker Ryno Barnes and will no doubt target the Sharks scrum.

The contest will be one of contrasts. The season has been disrupted for the Sharks and their depth constantly tested; Griquas, because of their good form and because they lack depth, have kept change to a minimum. While the Sharks have the most effective defence in the Currie Cup — they have leaked only nine tries in six games — they face the most potent attackers with Griquas’ having scored 26 tries.

The Sharks, both with the ball and without it, showed their quality at Ellis Park last week and they should prevail on their home ground today. But they cannot expect this Griqua team simply to roll over because they are playing in someone else’s back yard.

TEAMS

Sharks: Stefan Terblanche (capt.), Chris Jordaan, Waylon Murray, Andries Strauss, Lwazi Mvovo, Monty Dumond, Charl McLeod, Keegan Daniel, Jean Deysel, Jacques Botes, Johann Muller, Steven Sykes, Wiehahn Herbst, Craig Burden, Patrick Cilliers/ Deon Carstens.

Reserves: Skipper Badenhorst, Patrick Cilliers/ Deon Carstens, Albert van den Berg, Justin Downey, Ross Cronje/ Rory Kockott, Guy Cronje, Patrick Lambie.

Griquas: Riaan Viljoen, Egon Seconds, Jaco Bekker, Barry Geel, Bjorn Basson, Naas Olivier, Sarel Pretorius, Jonathan Mokuena (capt.), Davon Raubenheimer, Rohan Kitshoff, Jacques Lombaard, Cecil Kemp, Ruaan du Preez, Ryno Barnes, Albertus Buckle.

Reserves: Andries Kruger, Steph Roberts, Nolan Clark, Heinrich Stride, Sean Plaatjies, Trompie Nontshinga and Gavin Passens.

Referee: Phillip Bosch

Y esterday: Blue Bulls X Leopards X

Today: Sharks v Griquas (King’s Park, 3 pm – M-Net, M-Net-HD and SSpt 1); Cheetahs v Boland (Free State Stadium, 3 pm); Western Province vs Lions (Newlands, 5.05 pm – M-Net, M-Net-HD and SSpt 1)

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