Sharks aim to kick at Loftus

2014-09-17 00:00

THERE is no doubt the pressure is on the Sharks as they prepare to travel to Loftus Versveld to face the Bulls in the seventh round of the Currie Cup.

Loftus looks more formidable than usual as the Bulls are running on a two-match winning streak and will be keen to play in their fortress once again.

But it’s not all doom and gloom for the Sharks — even after settling for a draw against the Cheetahs courtesy of a late Willie du Plessis penalty last Saturday. They looked much improved in their set-pieces and built up many more phases on attack than in previous games.

“I thought our discipline was very good and our set-pieces operated really well so those areas were certainly positive and we created lots of opportunities. At the same time, on the negative side, we maybe didn’t take as many of those opportunities as we would have liked,” said coach Brad Macleod-Henderson.

“That probably hurt us at the end of the day and giving the penalty away after the hooter was very disappointing,” he added.

Although the Sharks have gained confidence following their draw there is no doubt that the Bulls pose a very different challenge.

The Bulls pack has rallied together and their scrum has been especially strong in their last few outings. The return of flyhalf Jacques-Louis Potgieter from injury has also fortified their trademark kicking game. This is what the Sharks are expecting from the home side on Saturday.

“First of all, we’ve got to win on the weekend but we’re looking forward to the challenge. Everyone knows what they [Bulls] are going to do. They’ve got a big pack of forwards and a good kicking game so we need to make sure that we match that and take our opportunities as they come,” Macleod-Henderson said.

It is well-known that the ball travels further on the Highveld and the Sharks might have to use that at certain times to put them in good positions on the field. Sharks flyhalf Fred Zeilinga believes it could be a big part of the game.

“I think it’s much better to kick at Loftus than here at King’s Park, the ball travels much further there. I think you just have to change your mindset to realise that you can kick the ball much further there. The guys much just back their ability and not be scared to kick the ball a long way,” he said.

Whether it’s Zeilinga or Lionel Cronjé directing the Sharks from flyhalf, either one will no doubt vie with the Bulls for territorial advantage.

The Sharks will be glad that Springbok wing Lwazi Mvovo is back in the fold — good timing as Odwa Ndungane has been ruled out with a groin injury. Mvovo could add some dimension on the counter-attack, especially when returning the Bulls kicks.

Lock JC Astle also returns to the forwards pack while centre Paul Jordaan is also back in the mix. It will be interesting to see if youngster Andre Esterhuizen gets another start after a good performance on debut last week.

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