Major task for Sharks

2015-03-14 00:00

THE Sharks have a monumental task ahead of them today as they face the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein. Not only are the Durban side away from home comforts, they also have their backs against the wall with just one win and three losses to their name. The hosts trumped the Sharks in Durban in round one and have a slight mental edge over the visitors. But the Cheetahs lost to the Bulls at home and may well have lost momentum going into today’s clash. The Sharks need to tap into some primal hunger, while looking to four key players to spur them on against their Free State opposition...


Pat Lambie vs Joe Pietersen

Pat Lambie

The Sharks’ backline general has been in arguably the best form of his career and has been the standout performer in most of his side’s games this season. The flyhalf’s kicking game and decision making have been highlights in the past four rounds. Ever a cool customer, Lambie has put his team in favourable positions on the field with his boot, but his team-mates have failed to capitalise on those opportunities. The Sharks’ first outing saw Lambie and Pietersen battle it out, and the latter played with the same resolve as the Sharks pivot. The Bok flyhalf will have to outsmart his Cheetahs counterpart if his side are to prevail this afternoon. He is at a slight advantage with the hulking Frans Steyn outside him to take off some of the pressure Lambie has weathered this season.

Joe Pietersen

The former Stormers utility back has been a revelation for the Cheetahs this season. He has brought an amazing sense of calm to the Free State backline and his boot has added an extra dimension to their typical running game plan. Alongside Sarel Pretorius, Pietersen has given the Cheetahs some real direction and they are beginning to play the territory game exceptionally well. This has allowed their side to play their running brand of rugby in the right parts of the field, rather than having a crack from dangerous positions. If he can turn the Sharks pack and pile on the pressure with his boot, Pietersen could be the key to the Cheetahs beating the Sharks


Cobus Reinach vs Sarel Pretorius

Cobus Reinach

The livewire Springbok scrumhalf has enjoyed the same prolific start to the Super Rugby season as his halfback partner Lambie. The pair have been the backbone of the Sharks game and Reinach has continued his form from last year. But the scrumhalf needs to put in a massive performance this weekend, as Pretorius is becoming a serious contender for Springbok colours. Sharks director of rugby Gary Gold believes both Lambie and Reinach are learning from the stressful start to the Super Rugby competition, but the halfbacks need to negate that pressure and help put their team in the right parts of the field if they are to succeed in taming the Cheetahs. Expect Reinach to kick from the base of mauls, while looking to snipe whenever the chance arises.

Sarel Pretorius

“Super” Sarel returns to the Cheetahs starting XV today after pulling out of last week’s match against the Bulls at the 11th hour. He was sorely missed and his presence in today’s clash will be a welcome relief to his coach Naka Drotské and his team-mates. Pretorius epitomises the Cheetahs’ ability to score from the smallest chances and he always poses a threat around the fringes of rucks and in open play. Pietersen has also taken some pressure off the scrummy, which has allowed him to direct his pack around the park. Reinach and Pretorius are of a similar mould, and this is definitely one of the head-to-heads to watch this afternoon.


Marcell Coetzee vs Oupa Mohoje

Marcell Coetzee

The bulldozing Springbok flank has thrown his body at everything this season and his enthusiasm and commitment cannot be faulted. One wonders how long Coetzee can keep it up though, as the fifth South African derby looms large. He will have to swallow a few painkillers after today’s match as a hugely physical encounter awaits him. The Cheetahs attacked the Sharks’ breakdowns in their first outing and Coetzee will have his work cut out for him containing a very mobile Cheetahs loose trio. When Heinrich Brussow comes off the bench, that problem will be compounded. He will also have a big role carrying the ball for the Sharks, with Willem Alberts out injured once again. Hopefully Renaldo Bothma can share the load, while Ryan Kankowski roams the field.

Oupa Mohoje

The promising Springbok flank was supposed to be rested this weekend ahead of the Cheetahs tour of New Zealand, but Tienie Burger pulled out of today’s clash and Mohoje was put straight back into the starting lineup for the clash. He has been in good form this year and has carried the ball and tackled like a man possessed in the opening rounds. He has also become a resourceful lineout jumper and adds some beef to the Cheetahs pack. Mohoje will have to work hard to contain Coetzee, who is bound to play towards the ball at breakdowns a lot more this afternoon in an effort to slow down the Cheetahs’ ball. If he can get the better of his Springbok counterpart, the Cheetahs will feed off quick ball, which will allow them to have a crack out wide.


Tendai ‘Beast’ Mtawarira vs Coenie Oosthuizen

Tendai ‘Beast’ Mtawarira

Beast makes his return from an ankle injury he sustained against the Cheetahs in the opening round of competition and looked fresh at training this week despite a lack of game time. There is no doubt he will be slightly off the pace, but his presence in the front row will greatly bolster a Sharks scrum that went backwards against the Stormers last week. His primary job will be to give his side some stability in the set piece, but he also needs to contribute on attack and defence. Losing big ball runners like Alberts means Beast will have to pick up his game and get the Sharks some good go forward. He also needs to front up to Oosthuizen in open play, as the Cheetahs tighthead ran riot in week one.

Coenie Oosthuizen

The Cheetahs and Springbok prop has made a very successful move from loosehead to tighthead and was hugely influential in his side’s win over the Sharks in week one. His scrumming has been phenomenal so far in the competition, which will have Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer thinking carefully about who will wear the number three jersey later this year. Away from the set piece, Oosthuizen has been devastating. He is one of the most powerful ball carriers in the competition and his work rate has to be admired. The burly tighthead has also been massive in defence and more than a few players will have regretted running into the massive Free State prop. The front row battle could very well decide which side have the upperhand from the set piece tonight.

Sharks team (15-1):

SP Marais, Odwa Ndungane, JP Pietersen, Frans Steyn, Lwazi Mvovo, Patrick Lambie, Cobus Reinach, Ryan Kankowski, Renaldo Bothma, Marcell Coetzee, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Mouritz Botha, Jannie du Plessis, Bismarck du Plessis (captain), Tendai Mtawarira. Replacements: Kyle Cooper, Dale Chadwick / Thomas du Toit, Lourens Adriaanse, Marco Wentzel / Lubabalo Mtyanda, Tera Mtembu, Conrad Hoffmann, André Esterhuizen, Jack Wilson.

Cheetahs team (15-1):

Willie le Roux, Cornal Hendricks, Johann Sadie, Francois Venter, Raymond Rhule, Joe Pietersen, Sarel Pretorius, Boom Prinsloo, Jean Cook, Oupa Mohoje, Francois Uys (captain), Carl Wegner, Coenie Oosthuizen, Torsten van Jaarsveld, Danie Mienie. Replacements: Stephan Coetzee, BG Uys, Maks van Dyk, Steven Sykes, Heinrich Brüssow, Tian Meyer, Willie du Plessis, Clayton Blommetjies.

Today’s Super Rugby fixtures

Crusaders vs Lions - 5.30 am.

Highlanders vs Waratahs - 8.35 am.

Reds vs Brumbies - 10.40 am.

Stormers vs Chiefs - 3 pm.

Cheetahs vs Sharks - 5.05 pm.

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