Daniel won’t underestimate ‘different’ Cheetahs team

2013-10-18 00:00

WHILE Sharks captain Keegan Daniel says the Sharks no longer have a mental block about the Cheetahs, he admits that the Free Staters will pose a major threat in tomorrow evening’s Currie Cup semi-final at King’s Park.

History supports Daniel and the Cheetahs have won only one of their last nine Currie Cup games against the Sharks. The Sharks this year edged to an 18-15 victory in Bloemfontein and then thumped the Free Staters 50-26 at King’s Park a month ago.

“We’ve managed to get the better of the Cheetahs in recent years. Maybe you could have referred to them as our bogey team a few years ago, but I don’t think that is the case anymore.”

Daniel said the teams were now playing knock-out rugby. “It’s now all about finals rugby, handling the pressure, capitalising on opportunities, and playing in the right areas of the field. There’s no such thing as bogey teams right now, it’s all about who executes properly on the day.”

And certainly the Sharks are aware of the experience and talent in the Cheetahs line-up, particularly with the impact their returning Springboks, hooker Adriaan Strauss and prop Coenie Oosthuizen, will have on their pack.

“Leadership makes a big difference in these games,” said Daniel, “and so getting a guy like Adriaan back brings a lot of stability to their team. He leads very well and he’s an exciting player who generates a lot of momentum for them.

“Coenie carries the ball strongly and brings stability to the scrum.”

But Daniel said the Free State would challenge across the field though the expected wet weather could blunt their backline.

“They provide a threat in terms of using the width of the field well, but they’ve also adapted their game from playing off 10 [flyhalf] to playing off nine [scrumhalf].

“Sarel Pretorius [scrumhalf] offers a real threat around the rucks.”

Pretorius’s individuality is both his strength and weakness. While he has proved a match winner with his sniping breaks in broken play, he often holds on too long at the base, inhibiting the Cheetahs’ backplay and earlier this season was dropped by coach Naka Drotské.

The Sharks have trained this week in the rain and they are anticipating another wet weather contest tomorrow.

“We ticked some boxes that we wanted to against Western Province last weekend, but when you play in those conditions, the bounce of the ball or just one or two small things can cost you the result,” said Daniel.

“At the end of the day, we can’t control the past, but we can put things right this weekend. We took positives out of the Province game. I thought we got on top in the collisions and that was one area where we struggled against them in Cape Town.”

Young South African referee Marius van der Westhuizen will be in charge tomorrow and that could be of concern to the Sharks captain.

Van der Westhuizen was in charge of the recent Sharks-Bulls game at Loftus and Daniel was clearly unhappy with some of the referee’s interpretations.

Tomorrow’s game kicks off at 5 pm while WP will host the Golden Lions in the 2.30 pm semi-final at Newlands (referee Marius Jonker).

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