Sharks likely to lift their game against Cheetahs

2011-09-14 00:00

COACH John Plumtree expects the Sharks to lift the level of their performance in Saturday’s crucial Currie Cup outing against the Free State Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.

The Sharks were ragged in their weekend win over the Pumas in Durban and will have to improve dramatically to beat the Free Staters in their own backyard.

But Plumtree said yesterday his young players have shown they can rise to the occasion.

“When the challenge in the Currie Cup has been greater we’ve played better. It’s really a case of the players needing to get excited every week.

“We have a lot of younger players and there is a bit of wear and tear settling in now we are getting to Round 10, and we just have to watch that.”

Plumtree said consideration is being given to rotating weary players but this is only possible for some positions.

With four front-rowers away at the Rugby World Cup there is a problem in depth at prop.

“Eugene van Staden, Wiehahn Herbst and Dale Chadwick have played just about every game and done very well.

“Craig Burden [hooker] is going well while Kyle Cooper has come off the bench and made an impact. But losing lock Ross Skeate [broken nose] has thrown a spanner into the works . Among the loosies, Keegan Daniel has had to play most of the games and Jean Deysel will probably play pretty much of the rest of the season as well while [flanks] Jacques Botes and Marcell Coetzee will swap around a bit.

“We’ve had disruptions, but at the same time we’re not going too badly.”

The Sharks coach said his team have to peak in the weeks ahead to successfully defend their Currie Cup title.

“We have some really exciting, tough contests ahead, including the Lions and Western Province coming here for big games at King’s Park.

“By the time the play-offs arrive you want to be playing well. If we can force our way into a semi-final, these games are then just a one-off.”

The Sharks are third, six points adrift of the log-leading Lions, and cannot afford to lose again if they are to host a home semi-final.

Plumtree said he expects the Cheetahs to be fired up after drawing with the Blue Bulls at the weekend.

“You want to win your home games, so they will be pretty disappointed that they dropped a couple of points against the Bulls last week.

“We can expect them to be pretty desperate. And we know it’s tough enough beating them even when they are not desperate.

“We know what a big challenge this is and our character, more than anything, is going to be tested this weekend.”

The Sharks will be without the injured Skeate, Ryan Kankowski and, almost certainly, scrumhalf Charl McLeod.

The match kicks off at 3 pm on Saturday.

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