Free State to focus on defence against Sharks

2009-07-31 00:00

THE Free Staters have suffered three successive Currie Cup defeats, but they will be confident of regaining the winning trail against the Sharks in Bloemfontein tonight.

Free State have lost to Western Province (19-13), the Lions (31-22) and the log-leading Griquas (28-18) and they cannot afford to drop another game at home. But they will be pleased to have the Sharks, the Currie Cup champions, in the opposite corner as they look to turn their season around.

The Sharks, for some reason, consistently bring out the best in the Free Staters. Not only did the bottom-of-the-log Cheetahs play a major role in ending the Sharks’ Super 14 charge this season with a 30-point win in Bloemfontein, but John Plumtree’s win over the Free Staters in the Currie Cup last year on the way to the title was their first in five seasons.

And, while the Free Staters have lost only their two loose forwards, Juan Smith and Heinrich Brussow, to the Test squad and are crowded with Super 14 players, the Sharks are without nine Springboks tonight and will field a young, inexperienced backline.

There was some good news for the Sharks last night with both wing Odwa Ndungane and prop Deon Carstens coming through their fitness tests.

Said coach John Plumtree, “[W]e have a good pack and if we can get our ball anything can happen. Free State offer a bit more than the Blue Bulls behind the pack so it will be a big test for our young backs.”

The 19-13 win over the Bue Bulls last week will have given the Sharks a massive boost but this game, away from home and against a side desperate to bounce back from defeat, will be even tougher.

Free State coach Naka Drotské says stern defence holds the key.

”Aggressive defending has always worked well against the Sharks and we would like to continue with that.”

Drotské says that unforced errors cost his team victories against the Lions and Western Province and stresses the importance of winning the game against the Sharks.

Teams:

Free State – Hennie Daniller, Danwel Demas, Corne Uys, Robert Ebersohn, Jongi Nokwe, Jacques-Louis Potgieter, Tertuis Carse, Francois Uys, Hendro Scholtz, Frans Viljoen, David de Villiers, Nico Breedt, WP Nel, Adriaan Strauss, Wian du Preez.

Replacements: Richardt Strauss, Coenie Oosthuizen, Izak van der Westhuizen, Kabamba Floors, Jean-Pierre Joubert, Louis Strydom, JW Jonker.

Sharks – Stefan Terblanche, Odwa Ndungane, Andries Strauss, Riaan Swanepoel, Lwazi Mvovo, Guy Cronje, Rory Kockott, Ryan Kankowski, Jean Deysel, Jacques Botes, Albert van den Berg, Steven Sykes, Patric Cilliers, Craig Burden, Deon Carstens.

Replacements: Skipper Badenhorst, Wiehahn Herbst, Nikolai Blignaut, Keegan Daniel, Charl McLeod, Monty Dumond, Waylon Murray.

Kick-off: 7.10 pm

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