Awkward test for Sharks

2011-08-05 00:00

COACH John Plumtree is looking for a dramatic improvement in the Sharks’ away form when they face Griquas in a Currie Cup match in Kimberley tonight.

The Sharks, in spite of missing 14 Springboks, and the largely untouched Golden Lions are both unbeaten after three rounds and are at the top of the Currie Cup log. But this could change this weekend with Griquas providing an awkward challenge for the young Sharks and the Lions facing a Blue Bulls team bolstered by seven returning Springboks.

Griquas have been blowing hot and cold this season. They shook Western Province by drawing at Newlands in the opening round, but then went home to Kimberley where they were thumped by the Lions. Last week they travelled to Nelspruit and ran in five tries in 25 minutes against the Pumas for a first-half lead of 34-7.

They then took their foot off the gas after the break and the Pumas, scoring five tries of their own, fought back strongly before going down 40-33.

The Sharks, of course, only just pipped the Pumas by a point a week earlier, struggling to break down their defences, and Plumtree said they would have to improve on their Nelspruit display to beat Griquas.

“Griquas played some very good rugby in patches against the Pumas and they are always tough in Kimberley. But I’m more concerned at what we do. We have shown that at home [against the Blue Bulls and the Cheetahs] we can beat anyone if we get our game going.

“But we struggled away against the Pumas and we know we will have to be much better in Kimberley.”

Plumtree has resisted the temptation to tamper with a young, successful team by rushing back his Springboks. Instead he has thrown down the challenge to them to keep performing or face being replaced by one of the seven Springboks now lurking in the wing.

Three of them, along with veteran Bok centre Marius Joubert, are on the bench tonight and this does provide him with some insurance should the Sharks lose their way in the first half.

The Sharks, who went on to take the title, did lose to Griquas (40-34) in this fixture last year but it was the first outing of the Currie Cup season and this year they have at least built up a head of steam.

Still, Griquas coach Abré Minnie said his side were ready for the Sharks.

“We’re very happy with the result in Nelspruit and the victory gave us huge confidence. We’re certainly looking forward to it. Last Friday we saw a higher intensity in the Pumas game and the players had more energy. I’m hoping we’ll play with the same vigour this week,” said Minnie.

He said he agreed with Plumtree’s decision to only use his returning Boks on the bench.

“I think that’s a good move. They have momentum and would like to keep it.”

Griquas have the talented if unpredictable Earl Rose at flyhalf and the solid Barry Geel in midfield, while recent Sharks signing Riaan Viljoen and Dusty Noble will threaten on the wing.

But the Sharks’ challenge will be to keep the blunt, workmanlike Griqua pack under wraps in front of their vocal crowd.

The Sharks failed to control the forward exchanges against the Pumas, and struggled, and their greenhorn pack, now without experienced lock Ross Skeate, face another searching, decisive test tonight.

TEAMS

Sharks: 15. Louis Ludik, 14. Mark Richards, 13. Stefan Terblanche, 12. Meyer Bosman, 11. Sibusiso Sithole, 10. Frederic Michalak, 9. Ross Cronje, 8. Keegan Daniel (captain),6. Jacques Botes, 5. Jan Andre Marais, 4. Anton Bresler,3. Wiehahn Herbst, Craig Burden, 1. Dale Chadwick. Replacements: 16. Kyle Cooper, 17. Eugene van Staden, 18. Peet Marais, 19. Ryan Kankowski, 20. Charl McLeod, 21. Patrick Lambie, 22. Marius Joubert.

Griquas: Rudi Vogt, Riaan Viljoen, Jean Stemmet, Barry Geel, Dusty Noble, Earl Rose, Marnus Hugo, Burger Schoeman, Davon Raubenheimer, Jonathan Mokuena (captain), Martin Muller, Hendrik Roodt, Lourens Adriaanse, Ryno Barnes, Jean Botha. Replacements: Matthew Dobson, Ivann Espag, Frikkie Spies, Marnus Schoeman, Matthew Rosslee, Monty Dumond, Wilmaure Louw. Referee: Pro Legoete. Kick-off: 7.10 pm.

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