Defence will be critical

2013-09-07 00:00

THE Sharks’ ability to close down the lively Western Province attack holds the key to the outcome of the Currie Cup game at Newlands tonight.

The Sharks are two points clear at the top of the log and victory tonight will provide them with a handy cushion at the end of the first round of competition. They will need it. In the second round, they have three away games (against Griquas, the Golden Lions and the Blue Bulls) and only two at home (against Free State and WP) before the Currie Cup play-offs.

Brendan Venter and his new coaching regime have made dramatic changes — on and off the field — at King’s Park. Rotational considerations have governed selection in certain positions. The Sharks are now playing a territory-based kicking game rather than the “ball-in-the-hand is worth two-in-the-air” approach of the discarded John Plumtree.

Province coach Allister Coetzee highlighted the differences this week and said his players were preparing for a game of tennis, with the ball being hoofed to and fro.

“Their game plan is definitely different to what it has been,” Coetzee said. “It’s almost a suffocate and strangle type of game plan where they hardly play in their half. It’s a bit of tennis.”

The experienced Butch James is at flyhalf for the Sharks today and it is unlikely that he will keep as strictly to the script as the 20-year-old Fred Zeilinga has done.

Still, the Sharks will play a tactical, pressure game, one that worked a treat against the Bulls and brought three tries.

Coetzee is expecting the ball to be kicked into their hands and he has dangerous counter-attackers, including the exciting Cheslin Kolbe and Gio Aplon, to punish the Sharks if their hoof-and-chase game lacks accuracy.

“We’ll need to make good decisions at the back when to have a go. We rely heavily on Aplon’s experience for that.”

Province revealed their attacking skill in the first half against the Lions last weekend and Sharks captain Jacques Botes has acknowledged the threat.

“Province have some really slick backs. If their back three get turn­over ball or a good bounce, they can cut you to pieces. We will need to handle that.”

The Sharks have the resources to match Province in the other areas and they will be looking to their experienced backrow of Jean Deysel, Keegan Daniel and Jacques Botes to play a major role. Their backs also need to show greater creativity, cohesion and ruthlessness in attack.

But it is the Sharks’ defence — in snuffing out the Province backs and closing down their counter-attack — that will be critical if their tactical plan is to succeed and they are to down the Currie Cup champions in their own backyard.

TEAMS

Western Province: 15. Gio Aplon, 14. Gerhard van den Heever, 13. Juan de Jongh, 12. Damian de Allende, 11. Cheslin Kolbe, 10. Kurt Coleman, 9. Louis Schreuder, 8. Nizaam Carr, 7. Rynhardt Elstadt, 6. Deon Fourie (captain), 5. De Kock Steenkamp, 4. Michael Rhodes, 3. Pat Cilliers, 2. Scarra Ntubeni, 1. Steven Kitshoff.

Replacements: 16. Michael Willemse, 17. Brok Harris, 18. Gerbrandt Grobler, 19. Rohan Kitshoff, 20. Nic Groom, 21. Gary van Aswegen, 22. Michael van der Spuy

Sharks:15. SP Marais, 14. Sizo Maseko, 13. Louis Ludik, 12. Tim Whitehead, 11. Lwazi Mvovo, 10. Butch James, 9. Cobus Reinach, 8. Jacques Botes (captain), 7. Jean Deysel, 6. Keegan Daniel, 5. Marco Wentzel, 4. Peet Marais, 3. Rayno Gerber, 2. Craig Burden, 1. Danie Mienie. Replacements: 16. Kyle Cooper, 17. Wiehahn Herbst, 18. Edwin Hewitt, 19. Justin Downey, 20. Charl McLeod, 21. Fred Zeilinga, 22. Jaco van Tonder.

Referee: Craig Joubert. Kick-off: 7.10 pm.

Today’s fixtures (home team first): Griquas vs Lions, 3.00 pm.; Bulls vs Free State, 5.05 pm; WP vs Sharks, 7.10 pm.

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