Fierce pressure on Sharks

2013-08-16 00:00

THE Currie Cup season is but a week old, but the Sharks will be under fierce pressure to bounce back from the opening round setback and down the Golden Lions at King’s Park this evening.

A defeat at King’s Park last Friday to Griquas, widely considered the most vulnerable team in the Currie Cup when they are on the road, provided the Sharks with their worst possible start.

They now face the Lions, who appear stronger and better balanced than the Griquas, while next weekend they meet the powerful Free State Cheetahs in Bloemfontein. If they lose again this evening, they face the real prospect of three losses on the bounce.

It was expected that the Sharks would be energised by the fresh approach and innovative coaching of Brendan Venter and company when they started their challenge last week. Instead, they were muted, unambitious and lacking in intensity and organisation.

In the words of veteran flyhalf Butch James, “Griquas were hungrier than us”.

The minnows from Kimberley were also more accurate, at the scrum, the line-out and the breakdown. The Sharks’ discipline cracked under pressure while they were conservative on attack, bashing their way down the middle and ignoring the space on the wings.

The Sharks have to improve in almost every area tonight.

Jacques Botes, a late call-up as captain and number eight against Griquas, did not know whether to laugh or cry after the defeat. He scored two tries and was named man of the match — but also had to make the losing speech.

“It felt like scoring a century in a Test match and still ending on the beaten side,” he said, adding that it was the first time he had lost to Griquas in Durban in a career that has spanned eight years.

The 32-year-old, who has played a remarkable 225 games for the Sharks (111 in the Currie Cup and 114 in Super Rugby), said he had been happy with his own display at number eight.

“But I’d much rather have had the result. It wasn’t the way we wanted to start a new era, but we want to get things back on track for the team and the new coaching staff.

“The one thing we can’t work on is the will to win. That’s got to come from within each of us. This is a vital match for both teams, but we’re playing at home and you don’t want to slip up in back-to-back games at home.”

While Griquas tested the Sharks, and found them wanting around the fringes, the Lions will play more expansively.

The Lions will also be waiting for big ball-carrier Jean Deysel in the midfield and the Sharks will also have to show greater variety on attack.

What is surprising is that the skilful Tera Mtembu, who impressed during Super Rugby, cannot find a place in the Sharks pack missing three Springbok loose forwards.

The Lions are battle-hardened after their tense Super Rugby promotion games against the Kings, but they have lost several high-profile players. One is at scrumhalf where Michaelhouse product Guy Cronjé, usually a flyhalf, will play in place of his injured twin brother Ross this evening.

The Sharks, under a new coaching regime, need time to settle and adjust. But followers of sporting teams are notoriously impatient — and Sharks’ supporters are no exception. The heat is already on.

TEAMS

Sharks: 15. Odwa Ndungane, 14. SP Marais, 13. Louis Ludik, 12. Heimar Williams, 11. Lwazi Mvovo, 10. Butch James, 9. Charl McLeod, 8. Jacques Botes (captain), 7. Jean Deysel, 6. Brynard Stander, 5. Marco Wentzel, 4. Edwin Hewitt, 3. Wiehahn Herbst, 2. Kyle Cooper, 1. Dale Chadwick. Replacements: 16. Craig Burden, 17. Rayno Gerber, 18. Peet Marais, 19. Tera Mtembu, 20. Cobus Reinach, 21. Fred Zeilinga, 22. Jaco van Tonder.

Lions: 15 Marnitz Boshoff, 14 Deon Helberg, 13 Robert De Bruin, 12 Dylan Des Fountain, 11 Anthony Volmink, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Guy Cronje, 8 Willie Britz, 7 Derick Minnie (captain), 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Hugo Kloppers, 4 Chris van Zyl, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Martin Bezuidenhout, 1 Jacques Van Rooyen. Replacements: 16 Robbie Coetzee, 17 CJ van der Linde, 18 Lambert Groenewald, 19 Warwick Tecklenburg, 20 Tian Meyer, 21 Lionel Cronje, 22 Chrysander Botha

Kick-off: 5.05 pm. Referee: Ben Crouse.

Other weekend Currie Cup fixtures

Today – Bulls vs Griquas, 7.10 pm.

Tomorrow - WP vs Free State, 7.15 pm.

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