Defence versus attack

2010-08-21 00:00

IT has been billed as a contest between the most dangerous attackers in the country and the most effective defenders, but there is much more to this top-of-the-log Currie Cup clash between the Sharks and unbeaten Western Province at King’s Park tonight.

The Sharks, running from all angles and distances, have scored 29 tries in six outings, six more than Province. But the stingy defence of Province has leaked only six tries to the 12 conceded by the Sharks.

Sharks coach John Plumtree admits the statistics do reflect the relative strengths of the two teams, but adds that they tell only part of the story.

“We also pride ourselves on our defence,” he said on the eve of the big game. “We leaked the majority of our tries at the start of the season and we’ve improved since then …”

Plumtree conceded that the Province defence would be difficult to break down.

“We’ve studied their defensive structures closely, and we understand what they do, but it’s still about us being good enough to break them. We’ve got a few things up our sleeves.”

The confirmation that Willem Alberts is fit to start is a major boost for the Sharks and the burly flank has a key role to play in providing them with go-forward ball.

Plumtree is also looking to the returning Bismarck du Plessis and Beast Mtawarira to provide the hard, physical edge which brought them a 20-14 win over the Cape Town-based team in the Super 14.

The Sharks now offer far more on attack, but young flyhalf Pat Lambie has to balance his running and kicking game. The Sharks’ ambitious, ball-in-the-hand rugby has brought positive results, but the immaculate place-kicking boot of Willem de Waal, the Province flyhalf, will be a factor if they play too much rugby in their own half.

“The guy [De Waal] just doesn’t miss and the decisions we make at the breakdown, and how we adapt to the pressure they put us under, will be vital. We need to back our defence and do the right things to limit the amount of kicks he gets.”

Province captain Anton van Zyl described the Sharks as a “formidable outfit” but said his players will be concentrating on their own strengths and systems rather than worrying about the opposition.

Coach Allister Coetzee agreed that WP would have to be at their best to beat the Sharks.

“They have an all-out attacking mindset and they put pace on the ball. They’re a momentum-based side and it’s important to front up against them physically.”

The Sharks, confident and with a sharp attacking game, should have the edge behind the scrum, but it is the battle at the breakdown and at the set piece which will dictate the flow of the game.

TEAMS

Sharks:15. Louis Ludik, 14. Odwa Ndungane, 13. Stefan Terblanche (c), 12. Andries Strauss, 11. Lwazi Mvovo, 10. Patrick Lambie, 9. Charl McLeod, 8. Ryan Kankowski, 7. Willem Alberts, 6. Keegan Daniel 5. Alistair Hargreaves, 4. Steven Sykes, 3. Wiehahn Herbst, 2. Bismarck du Plessis, 1. Tendai Mtawarira.

Replacements: 16. Craig Burden, 17. Eugene van Staden, 18. Ross Skeate, 19. Jacques Botes, 20. Rory Kockott, 21. Monty Dumond, 22. Riaan Swanepoel

Western Province: 15. Conrad Jantjes, 14. JJ Engelbrecht, 13. Tim Whitehead, 12. Paul Bosch, 11. Frikkie Welsh, 10. Willem de Waal, 9. Dewaldt Duvenage, 8. Duane Vermeulen, 7. Rynhard Elstadt, 6. Pieter Louw, 5. Anton van Zyl (c), 4. Adriaan Fondse, 3. Brok Harris, 2. Tiaan Liebenberg, 1. Wicus Blaauw.

Replacements: 16. Deon Fourie, 17. Buhle Mxunyelwa, 18. De Kock Steenkamp, 19. Nick Koster, 20. Conrad Hoffmann, 21. Lionel Cronje, 22. Morgan Newman.

Referee: Lourens van der Merwe (Free State). K ick-off: 7.15 pm.

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