Sharks look for 8th win

2010-09-04 00:00

THE Sharks are expecting a Blue Bull backlash, but will still fancy their chances of winning tonight’s Currie Cup match at Loftus Versfeld.

Running against the Bulls, the current Currie Cup and Super 14 champions, on their home paddock at Loftus is one of the more daunting challenges in rugby, but such is the form of the current Sharks, and their excellent recent record against the Pretoria-based team, that they are in confident mood.

John Plumtree’s team, with their high-paced, attacking approach, have won seven successive Currie Cup games and have a healthy seven-point cushion at the top of the log. They also have an excellent Currie Cup record against the Bulls. Not only have they won four of the last five Currie Cup games at Loftus (since 2005), but today they will be looking for their sixth victory in a row over the Bulls in this competition.

Their form has also been encouraging and their high-tempo, ball-in-the-hand approach has fashioned impressive wins over Griquas, Western Province and the Leopards in recent weeks while the Bulls were crashing to the Pumas and Western Province and only just pipped Griquas at Loftus.

Plumtree is urging the players to take nothing for granted and said they have to stay focused week in and out if they want to win the Currie Cup.

“We’ll have to be ready mentally and physically,” he said yesterday. “We are playing the Bulls at Loftus and, if we take it easy, we’ll get our bums kicked. The Bulls will be hurting after losing to the Pumas and they will be pretty fired up.”

But Plumtree said the Sharks have prepared well for the challenge.

“The boys are ready to go, they’ve trained well this week, and they’re really excited about the challenge.”

Bulls coach Frans Ludeke has conceded his players are under pressure after four Currie Cup losses.

“It is time for us to stamp our authority on the competition. We cannot afford another home defeat. The Sharks have their tails up and deserve to be on top of the log at the moment.”

Ludeke has been boosted by the return of 2010 Bok squad members Zane Kirchner, Wynand Olivier and Dewald Potgieter, but the team, disrupted by change, have failed to fire consistently.

The Sharks are looking to burly flank Willem Alberts and front-rowers Beast Mtawarira and Bismarck du Plessis, who should both be in Bloemfontein with the Bok squad, to provide the the momentum that will allow Keegan Daniel, Jacques Botes and the halfbacks to flourish.

The contest will provide an intriguing sideshow with all three players vying for the Sharks’ Super 15 flyhalf spot in next year’s Super 15 on parade. Pat Lambie will start at 10 for the Sharks, but Bok flyhalf Andre Pretorius, fighting back from injury, is on the bench and we should see him in the second half, while Jacques-Louis Potgieter, who is moving to Durban at the end of the season, is the Bulls’ pivot.

The Sharks’ total rugby, their wholehearted, fluent attacking approach and excellent form should bring them an important victory tonight. But it will be a mighty struggle. The proud Bulls have the pedigree and the home-ground advantage and they are desperate to turn their season around.

TEAMS

Blue Bulls: 15. Zane Kirchner, 14. Gerhard van den Heever, 13. Jaco Pretorius, 12. Wynand Olivier, 11. Jaco van der Westhuyzen, 10. Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 9. Ruan Snyman, 8. Gerrit-Jan van Velze, 7. Dewald Potgieter, 6. Derick Kuun (capt), 5. Fudge Mabeta, 4. Juandre Kruger, 3. Werner Kruger, 2. Bandise Maku, 1. Dean Greyling.

Replacements: 16. Henry Bantjes, 17. Frik Kirsten, 18. Jaco Engels, 19. Wilhelm Steenkamp, 20. CJ Stander, 21. Dustin Jinka, 22. Stefan Watermeyer.

Sharks: 15. Louis Ludik, 14. Odwa Ndungane, 13. Stefan Terblanche (captain), 12. Andries Strauss, 11. Lwazi Mvovo, 10. Patrick Lambie, 9. Charl McLeod, 8. Keegan Daniel, 7. Willem Alberts, 6. Jacques Botes, 5. Alistair Hargreaves, 4. Steven Sykes, 3. Wiehahn Herbst, 2. Bismarck du Plessis, 1. Tendai Mtawarira.

Replacements: 16. Craig Burden, 17. Eugene van Staden, 18. Michael Rhodes, 19. Skholiwe Ndlovu, 20. Rory Kockott, 21. Andre Pretorius, 22.Riaan Swanepoel.

Referee: Jonathan Kaplan.

Kick-off: 7.10 pm (SS1).

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