Sharks expected to gallop to decisive victory

2010-10-01 00:00

ANYTHING less than a full house of five log points would be considered a disaster by the log-leading Sharks when they take on the Leopards in the penultimate round of the Currie Cup at King’s Park tonight.

The Sharks and second-placed Western Province, who meet in the last round in Cape Town next weekend, are vying for top spot on the log, which would secure home ground advantage in a potential Currie Cup final.

The Sharks currently hold a four-point lead over Province and they are expected to gallop to a decisive win over the Leopards tonight. This would leave Province having to beat the Blue Bulls at Loftus tomorrow to have any chance of overtaking the Sharks at the top in the final round.

Statistically, the Leopards are not in the race. They have lost 12 games on the trot and have conceded an average of six tries per outing. And that, of course, is the danger, that the Sharks will arrive expecting to run in tries from all angles and distances and will ignore the basics in the process.

Sharks coach John Plumtree has emphasised the importance of respecting the opposition and he has made changes that should keep the team focused.

“The Leopards have conceded many tries (73), but they have also often threatened on attack and scored 29 tries.”

He admitted that the bigger unions, like the Sharks, have the advantage in conditioning experts (like the home team’s Mark Steele and Jimmy Wright) and, with the new laws, they were able to stress the defences of the smaller teams who are not as well prepared.

Plumtree said the changes to the team — Springbok Andre Pretorius is in for Pat Lambie at flyhalf and Gerhard Mostert takes over from the injured Alistair Hargreaves at lock — will bring a new dynamic to the Sharks’ play.

“The danger is changing too much and this could lead to some confusion. But we won’t go away from our strengths.”

Plumtree has built the Sharks games on modern lines with the players producing a high energy, quick tempo approach.

If the tight forwards strut their stuff and lay the platform, then the King’s Park crowd should be treated to a feast of running rugby and a glut of tries.

Leopards’ coach Chaka Willemse has made a number of changes with Cecil Dumond replacing the injured Danie Dames at fullback, while wing Cornelius Rautenbach and centre Jovan Bowles switch places at outside three-quarter.

Among the forwards, Victor Joubert and Willem Koch start on the flanks, Edrich Linde is back at lock, while Barend van der Walt and Gavin Williamson start ahead of Johan Coetzee (thigh injury) and Marthinus van der Westhuizen.

It will be a massive upset if the Sharks do not win with a bonus point tonight and, if they pick up five log points, and no injuries, they will be able to sit back, relax and enjoy watching the Bulls and Province taking chunks out of one another in the battle at Loftus tomorrow.

TEAMS

Sharks

15. Louis Ludik 14. Odwa Ndungane, 13. Andries Strauss, 12. Riaan Swanepoel, 11. Lwazi Mvovo, 10. Andre Pretorius 9. Charl McLeod, 8. Keegan Daniel (captain), 7. Willem Alberts, 6. Jacques Botes, Gerhard Mostert, 4. Steven Sykes, 3. Jannie du Plessis, 2. Craig Burden, .Eugene van Staden

Replacements: 16. Kyle Cooper, 17. Patric Cilliers, 18. Anton Bresler, 19. Michael Rhodes, 20. Rory Kockott, 21. Patrick Lambie, 22. Luzuko Vulindlu.

Leopards:

15. Cecil Dumond, 14. Cornelius Rautenbach, 13. Jovan Bowles, 12. Walter Venter, 11. Dumisani Matyeshana, 10. Clayton Durand, 9. Tiaan Dorfling, 8. Riaan Swanepoel/RW Kember, 7.. Willem Koch, 6. Victor Joubert, 5. Edrich Linde, 4. Brad Mockford, 3. Barend van der Walt, 2. Gavin Williamson, 1. Bennie Uys.

Replacements: 16. Marthinus van der Westhuizen, 17. Eric Coetzee, 18. Anthonie Gronum, 19. RW Kember/Riaan Swanepoel, 20. Divan Kotze, 21 Gharfoer Luckan, 22. Jan van Zyl.

Referee: Jaco Peyper.

FIXTURES

Tonight: Sharks v Leopards (King’s Park, 7.10 pm — live on )

Tomorrow: Pumas v Griquas (Puma Stadium, 3 pm), Blue Bulls v Western Province (Loftus Versfeld, 3 pm), Free State Cheetahs v Lions (Free State Stadium, 5.05 pm)

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