Make or break in Bloem

2014-09-13 00:00

Centres

André Esterhuizen vs Joubert Englebrecht

André Esterhuizen

The talented and bulky 20-year-old inside centre makes his Currie Cup debut. He is no stranger to the Sharks set up, having been involved in the Super Rugby squad at the beginning of the year. He made a strong statement when he scored a try in the pre-season friendly against Saracens in January. Alongside S’bura Sithole, the Sharks centres should provide plenty of fire-power and generate good go-forward ball for the Sharks outside backs to feed off.

Joubert Englebrecht

The Upington High School product has been solid for the Cheetahs in the midfield in the Currie Cup. He plied his trade for the Leopards from 2010 to 2012, before joining the Cheetahs last year. Englebrecht will have to step up physically against Esterhuizen. However, he is more experienced and will try to use that to his advantage. He also has a steady head in Francois Venter next to him and lots of pace out wide, so will likely look to pass the ball on attack.

Scrumhalves

Conrad Hoffmann vs Sarel Pretorius

Conrad Hoffmann

The return of Hoffmann has brought some experience into the Sharks team. Hoffmann had to shake off some rust in his first two matches but was showing glimpses of the player he can be. He seems to be more mature having spent some time in Australia. His passing and kicking game has looked good and he has the ability to snipe and beat defenders. He will have to be alert and shadow his opposite number though. As he said: “Sarel is a slippery fella”.

Sarel Pretorius

Probably the cog that makes the Cheetahs side tick, Pretorius offers so much to the Free State side. His passing and kicking is top notch. But it is his lightning-fast speed and ability to snipe and make crucial breaks that make him so dangerous. He did exactly that against the Sharks a few weeks ago when he broke down the field to put Clayton Blommetjies away for a try. The Sharks recognise he is a danger man and will have to watch him closely.

Eighth men

Tera Mtembu vs Lappies Labuschagne

Tera Mtembu

The Sharks captain has been in great form so far and will be looking to put their past two consecutive losses behind him. Mtembu has been great in loose play and has carried the ball well on attack and has that X-factor that makes him so great to watch. He has been good on defence as well, but will have to step up his physicality today. He has adjusted well to the captaincy and will continue to grow. This clash is crucial and could be a defining moment for his team and his career.

Lappies Labuschagne

Labuschagne has been a huge part of the Cheetahs pack in the past two years and his outstanding play has seen him land a contract with the Bulls in 2015. He makes his return to the side after an injury absence and will need to come out all guns blazing. He is a tireless worker and will no doubt relish being back. Expect him to be used as a big ball carrier and look out for his work on defence and at the breakdowns. He might not play the full 80 minutes, but he will need to make a big impact.

Hookers

Kyle Cooper vs Torsten van Jaarsveld

Kyle Cooper

The ex-Glenwood pupil has finally got his chance to play an extended amount of rugby in the Sharks starting line-up. The livewire hooker is one of the more experienced heads in the Sharks pack in the Currie Cup. He is another hard-working player who more than carries his weight. His lineout throws have been pretty spot on and he is great on attack. His pace and strength make him hard to bring down. He faces a hard man in Torsten van Jaarsveld and it will no doubt be a big head-to-head clash.

Torsten van Jaarsveld

The Cheetahs captain has led his team on the front lines and is a big, physical player. Van Jaarsveld is a great defender and is ever-present in the breakdown, stealing the ball much like Heinrich Brussow. He has grown as a player this year after making his long-overdue Super Rugby debut. He might also be confident after he scored a try against the Sharks in the global showpiece. The Cheetahs were unlucky not to beat the Sharks in Durban and he will want his men to beat them at home.

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