Cheetahs to target Sharks’ forwards

2011-09-17 00:00

THE Sharks have somehow to find a way to down the dangerous Free State Cheetahs in Bloemfontein this afternoon if they are to have any chance of hosting the Currie Cup final for the third time in four years.

The Sharks trail the Currie Cup pacesetting Lions by six points and John Mitchell’s buoyant team should stretch that cushion to 11 points overnight with their outing against the bottom-of-the-log Leopards.

A Sharks loss this afternoon would surely take the Lions out of reach with only four games remaining. Conversely, a Sharks’ win in Bloem would keep them just in touch and they then have the easier run-in with three home games to follow including one against the Lions.

But first, really, they do have to beat the Cheetahs and anyone who watched the Sharks’ ham-fisted

efforts against the Pumas at King’s Park last weekend will be sceptical about their chances.

Coach John Plumtree agrees it will be one heck of a challenge.

“We just want to go up there and express ourselves, but we haven’t played well away from home this year. We’ve talked long and hard about performing the way we have prepared this week.”

Plumtree said the Free Staters, well-organised and balanced, threatened across the field.

“They are very direct and very tough up the middle of the field (through Ashley Johnson) and they have the ability to go wide so we need to make sure we defend very well. Everything needs to be done with urgency and tempo for 80 minutes.”

Plumtree said that both teams aim “to play the game at speed and both wanted to give the ball width.”

“That’s what makes games between these two sides really good. I hope we do some really effective attacking work because that’s been the big focus for us.”

The Sharks have been hurt by injuries and are missing their alert scrumhalf Charl McLeod and two of their more physical and involved forwards in tighthead Wiehahn Herbst and Ross Skeate.

Hardly surprisingly, Free State coach Naka Drotské says the Cheetahs will target the Sharks’ scrum.

“It was actually strange for me to see how the Sharks struggled in the scrums against the Pumas. They have scrummed well the whole season, but there were one or two scrums where the Pumas definitely had their number.

“We will definitely take the Sharks on in the scrums,” he said, adding that his prop Coenie Oosthuizen could pose problems.

But Drotské is also excited about the fresh options provided by his 19-year-old flyhalf Johan Goosen, who can punish the Sharks for any indiscretions within 60 metre of their posts.

The Sharks, in turn, are still battling to find cohesion among the backs and Plumtree is hoping that veteran Bok centre Marius Joubert, returning from his sabbatical, will play with a spring in his step and his energy will spread through the backline.

Plumtree says the Free Staters, in fourth place and eyeing the semi-finals, will be desperate not to drop further points at home after their drawn game against the Blue Bulls last Saturday.

But this is also the big one for the Sharks if they are to keep dreaming of a home final. Plumtree is confident they will match the Free Staters’ intensity, but it will not be enough unless they also improve dramatically on their patchy form against the Pumas.

TEAMS

Sharks: 15. Stefan Terblanche 14. Sibusiso Sithole 13. Marius Joubert 12. Meyer Bosman 11. Lwazi Mvovo 10. Frederic Michalak 9. Conrad Hoffmann 8. Keegan Daniel (captain) 7. Jean Deysel 6. Jacques Botes 5. Alistair Hargreaves 4. Anton Bresler 3. Eugene van Staden 2. Craig Burden 1. Dale Chadwick

Replacements: 16. Kyle Cooper 17. Julian Redelinghuys 18. Jan Andre Marais 19. Marcell Coetzee 20. Ross Cronje 21. Adrian Jacobs 22. Louis Ludik

Free State Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Riaan Smit, 13 Robert Ebersohn, 12 Philip Snyman, 11 Cameron Jacobs, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Pieter van Zyl, 8 Ashley Johnson, 7 Boom Prinsloo, 6 Lappies Labuschagné, 5 Izak van der Westhuizen, 4 Francois Uys, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 3 Adriaan Strauss (captain), 1 Marcel van der Merwe.

Replacements: 16 Hercu Liebenberg, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 19 Johan Wessels, 20 Tewis de Bruyn, 21 Sias Ebersohn, 22 Philip Burger.

Referee: Mark Lawrence. Kick-off: 3 pm

THIS WEEKEND’S FIXTURES (HOME TEAM FIRST)

Today: Free State vs Sharks 3 pm, Griquas v Pumas 3 pm, Blue Bulls v Western Province 5.05 pm

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