Expect familiar direct Sharks’ style

2009-10-10 00:00

IT was in the corresponding game last season that the Sharks travelled to Kimberley, beat Griquas 44-15 and turned around their Currie Cup campaign on the way to taking the title.

Head coach John Plumtree says that today’s crunch game against Griquas could be as significant in energising the Sharks and helping them settle on a coherent game plan ahead of next weekend’s play-offs.

Last year the Sharks, without 12 regulars, suddenly ditched their expansive approach and returned to their more familiar direct style, one based on power and momentum created by hard-driving forwards and their midfield backs.

It worked a treat and Plumtree described that win as their “most impressive up to that point” as they then went on an unbeaten 10-match run to the Currie Cup title.

Plumtree seems certain to return to that blueprint today after their questionable approach in recent weeks, one which has seen the ball taken too wide, too soon, too often, has left them looking tactically vulnerable and exposed at the breakdown behind the gain-line.

Inside centre Riaan Swanepoel, back from injury, and young flank Michael Rhodes – a clone of Jean Deysel but at 1,97m and 115kg even bigger – will help the Sharks breach the advantage line and this will add a sharp edge to the attacking play.

“We have to improve across the park,” said Plumtree, “but winning go-forward possession will be vital.”

The Sharks also need the talented but subdued Ruan Pienaar to start expressing himself again at scrumhalf by testing the Griqua backrow and taking pressure off his backs.

The Sharks scrum, with an all-Bok front-row, should hold the edge and Plumtree will be looking for greater accuracy from hooker Bismarck du Plessis in hitting his lineout jumpers, but it is the breakdown which will be decisive.

The Sharks battled last week against the bigger Lions who out-muscled them at the tackle and either slowed their ball, turned it over or forced penalties. Griquas obviously took notes and they are also targeting the area. They have rushed Matie captain and flank Wesley Wilkins, a talented fetcher, into their starting line-up and they obviously hope to break the Sharks’ rhythm at the breakdown.

Griquas are also confident that their passion in this must-win game on their home ground will unsettle the Sharks.

“ Kimberley is an ally of ours,” said flyhalf Naas Olivier, “and we are desperate and hungry. We always back ourselves up here at home. It’s bloody warm, so it won’t be easy for the Sharks to adapt to the conditions.”

Griquas need a win, or at least two bonus points, to beat off the challenge of the Free Staters for fourth place and cement their place in the semi-finals. The Free Staters travel to Wellington to meet last-placed Boland this afternoon and, unless they are bogged down by the weather, they should pick up five log points.

Plumtree said the Sharks know what to expect.

“Griquas will be more motivated than us, no doubt. This is their final and reaching the play-offs will give them their fairytale season.”

He said there is still a realistic chance of the Sharks overtaking Western Province at the top of the log.

“We first need to get the points against Griquas and then hope that the Lions can match the motivation they showed against last week and derail Province at Ellis Park.”

The Sharks have 11 players with international experience in their starting line-up and they should certainly have the firepower to douse the passion and enthusiasm of Griquas. But big names will not carry the day and they need to play the right game tactically and gel as a team. It is time for the Sharks to take on the look of champions.

TEAMS

Sharks - 15 Stefan Terblanche (c), 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Adrian Jacobs, 12 Riaan Swanepoel, 11 JP Pietersen, 10 Juan Hernandez, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Michael Rhodes, 6 Keegan Daniel, 5 Alistair Hargreaves, 4 Steven Sykes, 3 John Smit, 2 Bismarck du Plessis,1 Beast Mtawarira.

Replacements: 16 Craig Burden, 17 Jannie du Plessis, 18 Albert van den Berg, 19 Jean Deysel, 20 Rory Kockott, 21 Andries Strauss, 22 Waylon Murray.

Griquas – 15 Riaan Viljoen, 14 Bjorn Basson, 13 Jaco Bekker, 12 Barry Geel, 11 Trompie Nontshinga, 10 Naas Olivier, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Jonathan Mokuena (c), 7 Davon Raubenheimer, 6 Wesley Wilkins, 5 Jacques Lombard, 4 Cecil Kemp, 3 Ruaan du Preez, 2 Ryno Barnes, 1 Albertus Buckle.

Replacements: 16 Dries Kruger, 17 Drew van Coller, 18 Brendon Snyman, 19 Rohan Kitshoff/Heinrich Stride, 20 Donald Stevens, 21 Wilmaure Louw, 22 Gavin Passens.

Referee: Mark Lawrence

Last night: Leopards 24 Blue Bulls 61

Today: Griquas v Sharks (GWK Park, Kimberley, 3 pm – M-Net, SSpt 1); Boland vs Bulls (Boland Stadium, Wellington, 3 pm – SSpt5); Lions vs WP (Ellis Park, 5.05pm – M-Net, M-Net-HD, SSpt1)

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