Daniel adds buzz to pack

2012-09-01 00:00

SHARKS coach John Plumtree is looking for an 80-minute performance from his players in this evening’s Currie Cup game against the Free State Cheetahs at King’s Park.

The Sharks have mixed good with bad in their opening three games, upsetting Western Province in their back yard and then dumping Currie Cup champions the Golden Lions in Durban. In both these games they struggled in the first half, but produced excellent rugby in the second to seal victories.

But last week, in Pretoria, it was all very different as they led 14-12 at the break and then leaked 30 points in the second half to lose

42-31 to the Blue Bulls.

Plumtree was not a happy coach after the Loftus defeat, picking on the Sharks’ poor defence and their untidy handling.

“We’ve been very patchy this season and we have still to put a full 80 minutes together. We will have to against the Cheetahs who will have grown in confidence after beating the Blue Bulls and Griquas over the past fortnight.”

The Free Staters, he said, will want to take advantage of the loss of most of the Sharks’ senior players, but his players were determined to keep winning their home games.

“We always have really good games against the Cheetahs and the teams are very well matched,” he said.

Both teams also prefer to keep the ball in hand and in recent months the Sharks have been particularly effective in playing the ball into space and at pace. A problem today, however, could be the weather and there seems a fair chance of rain spoiling the occasion.

The Sharks are at the top of the log alongside the Bulls and Cheetahs, and Plumtree said it was crucial to win home games in this year’s abbreviated competition.

“If you drop games at home, you find yourself under pressure.

“The next two rounds, the game against Free State and away game to Griquas, the final two games of the first round, are vital.”

If the Sharks can retain their top spot after the first round, they will be well placed to secure a home semi-final in the Currie Cup as they have three home games in the second round (to WP, the Bulls and Griquas) and only two away (to the Cheetahs and Lions).

The Cheetahs were once considered the Sharks’ bogey team, but Plumtree’s record against the Free Staters has been good.

In the last 10 clashes between the two sides in all competitions, the Sharks have won eight and Free State two.

The Free Staters have a more settled look to their team, having lost only hooker Adriaan Strauss and flyhalf Johan Goosen to the Boks.

But the Sharks have been boosted by the retun of discarded Springbok backrower Keegan Daniel, who will add some buzz to the pack and help offset the loss of the dynamic Burden in broken play.

Indeed, the Sharks, with Super Rugby regulars at lock (Steven Sykes and Anton Bresler) and in the backrow (Daniel, Jacques Botes and Jean Deysel), should be able to place the Cheetahs’ pack under some pressure.

But the Free Staters have a number of lively runners in scrumhalf Sarel Pretorius, after his unhappy days with the Waratahs, and centre Robert Ebersohn, while their outside backs will pose a counter-attacking threat.

One Shark particularly excited to be back at King’s Park today is replacement hooker Pieter Dixon, who has been rushed into the squad after first Bismarck du Plessis and then Craig Burden were lost to the Boks.

Dixon, the former Bath hooker, has seen no serious action in months and Plumtree will be hoping the veteran is not needed to play an extended role today. But Dixon is delighted to be back at King’s Park.

“The wheel has gone the full circle,” the former Maritzburg College hooker said.

“I played all my junior rugby in KZN and represented the Wildebeest side.

“Now I have the opportunity to fulfill a dream of actually playing for the Sharks.

“I hope that I am able to be a positive force for the side, as a player and someone who will be able to assist the youngsters in their own development.”

Plumtree believes that it will be a close, hard struggle tonight.

“There is not a lot between these two teams and it will come down to the side that wants it most,” he said.

Last Saturday the Sharks were not as hungry as the Blue Bulls and paid the price. Today, at home, they will win, but only if they can match the intensity they showed in beating WP and the Lions in the first two rounds.

TEAMS

Sharks: 15 Louis Ludik, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Paul Jordaan, 12 Meyer Bosman, 11 Sbura Sithole, 10 Riaan Viljoen, 9 Charl McLeod, 8 Keegan Daniel, 7 Jean Deysel (c), 6 Jacques Botes, 5 Anton Bresler, 4 Steven Sykes, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Monde Hadebe, 1 Dale Chadwick.

Replacements: 16 Pieter Dixon, 17 Julian Redelinghuys, 18 Jandre Marais, 19 Francois Kleinhans, 20 Cobus Reinach, 21 Marius Joubert, 22 Rosko Specman.

Free State Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Nico Scheepers, 13 Robert Ebersohn (c), 12 Barry Geel, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Sias Ebersohn, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Kabamba Floors, 7 Pieter

Labuschagne, 6 Frans Viljoen, 5 Izak van der Westhuizen,

4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Marcel van der Merwe, 2 Hercu Liebenberg, 1 Schalk van der Merwe.

Replacements: 16 Elandré Huggett, 17 Ross Geldenhuys, 18 Waltie Vermeulen, 19 Davon Raubenheimer, 20 Tewis de Bruyn, 21 Phillip Snyman, 22 Ryno Benjamin

Referee: Rasta Rasivhenge. Kick-off: 5.05 pm.

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