Sharks and Bulls hope to survive early stages without key players

2009-07-15 00:00

THE Sharks will host the Boland Kavaliers this Friday night in their first home match of the Currie Cup with the knowledge that their opponents will be coming to King’s Park with a plan to disrupt, attack and claw their way towards earning some of the spoils.

The Currie Cup has a tough way of evening matters out as it runs its course and this weekend will see a full-strength Boland side look to upset the applecart against a weakened Sharks, who have lost nine players to the Springbok squad for the upcoming Vodacom Tri-Nations, which kicks off this Saturday.

“In the Currie Cup every year, when the so-called minnow sides at full strength, there are often upsets,” admits assistant coach Grant Bashford. Already Griquas have shown this to be true with their defeat of Free State in Bloemfontein last weekend. So in effect, teams like The Sharks and Bulls who lose the highest number of personnel must make do with what they have, but come the latter stages of the tournament when they are back to full-strength, the wheel has done a radical turn — in their favour.

With The Sharks and Bulls sides having contested last year’s Absa Currie Cup final, it appears that hanging in there successfully in the early stages until the Boks return to bolster squad depth is the winning formula.

“What you tend to find later in campaign when the smaller teams pick up injuries is that they don’t have the depth and fall away,” explains Bashford. “So catching them in the early stages of the competition is never an easy game, they can become really dangerous.

“The thing with us is that our depth is tested when Boks are away, but there are no excuses, we have to invent ways to win. Last year we were criticised for our style but we went on to become unbeaten for 11 games, and we have to back ourselves. The time for excuses is over.”

Bashford admits that, “Territory and discipline cost us against Western Province”, and points out that these two areas will need to be handled better on Friday night.

“We have a strategy of how we want to play, but you need accuracy in execution, and it becomes difficult in tough conditions … hopefully the weather will be good on Friday.”

With flyhalf Guy Cronje having been thrown in the deep-end against Western Province, the coach admits that it is not easy — or fair — to judge the youngster on just one performance. Flyhalf is a crucial position, sometimes called the “pivot” because he is so pivotal in the game, and whereas last year The Sharks used five in the first six games, the necessity to stick with one player, especially if he is as highly-rated as Cronje is, is going to be crucial.

“It was exceptionally difficult to play in those conditions. Guy is just out of the Under 19s and will be really good player in time, he is still finding his feet.”

 

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