Sharks need the boost of a win against Cheetahs nemesis

2010-02-19 00:00

AFTER the untidy and unsavoury false start of last weekend, the Sharks will be desperate to scramble to a rare win over the Cheetahs in their Super 14 outing at King’s Park this evening.

The Sharks’ Super 14 opener against the Chiefs was marred by men behaving badly on and off the field, a night of yellow cards, frustrating last-second defeat, tossed beer cans and the acidic aftertaste of what might have been.

The Sharks set off this weekend on their Super 14 slog, a five-match Cook’s Tour of the Antipodes and to say that they need the boost of a home win before they leave is an understatement.

It will not be easy for them against a team they have found more difficult to beat than any other South African team, one which effectively killed off their promising Super 14 and Currie Cup challenges last year.

The Free Staters, as Sharks coach John Plumtree has pointed out, have a dangerous, well-balanced team capable of beating any team in the competition on their day. They gave the champion Bulls the runaround before their lights went out in Bloem a week ago and they would have learnt more from their defeat that night than the Sharks did in losing the King’s Park lottery to the Chiefs.

The Cheetahs have a strong pack with a front-row which has troubled the Sharks’ Bok line-up time and again. Their backrow contains the two Boks in the honest toiler Juan Smith and the breakdown specialist Heinrich Brussow. Their backline also beats the Sharks for pace now that Lionel Mapoe has switched from wing to outside centre where he will play outside the astute Meyer Bosman.

“They enjoy attacking the gain-line,” Plumtree told the Witness yesterday, “and if we let them do that, and build momentum, we’re in for a long night.”

The Cheetahs went down against the Bulls because their previous strengths, their scrum and their defence, went missing on the night.

Their scrum doctor Os du Randt says his forwards were overconfident and they expected their front-row of Wian du Preez, Adriaan Strauss and WP Nel to dominate. But the Bulls took charge and even won a penalty try when the Cheetahs’ scrum disintegrated on their own line.

“There’s no excuses,” says Os. “We were poor. We went into the game thinking we could do no wrong, but that wasn’t the case. We were well beaten and just didn’t stick to the basics.”

The Free Staters have also spent the week tightening up their defence which conceded a number of soft tries to the Bulls.

The Sharks have left even their most loyal supporters sceptical. How will the rejigged front-row (with John Smit back at hooker) stand up to the Free Staters; will the relative newcomer Alistair Hargreaves match up physically to the challenge and will the returning Ruan Pienaar, the yo-yo man of South African rugby, and Adi Jacobs add an attacking edge to the backplay?

In spite of all the emphasis on the new interpretation of the laws, attacking play and scoring tries, it seems referees’ rulings and penalties are still the key to victory.

In the first round there were 153 points scored from penalties which is an increase of 240% on the 45 points in the opening round of last year’s competition. The number of penalties (51) kicked is 340% more than the 15 of last year while the number of tries has also decreased with 30 scored in week one compared with 44 last year. Referee Jonathan Kaplan and the kickers, Rory Kockott (Sharks) and Naas Olivier (Cheetahs), will again be pivotal figures this evening.

The Sharks need the boost of a win to settle the nerves of both players and supporters and provide some optimism for the weeks ahead. But victory over the Cheetahs is not something that a Sharks supporter takes for granted.

TEAMS

Sharks

15. Stefan Terblanche, 14. Odwa Ndungane, 13. Waylon Murray, 12. Adrian Jacobs, 11. JP Pietersen, 10. Ruan Pienaar, 9. Rory Kockott, 8. Ryan Kankowski, 7. Jean Deysel, 6. Jacques Botes, 5. Alistair Hargreaves, 4. Steven Sykes, 3. Jannie du Plessis , 2. John Smit (c), 1. Tendai Mtawarira.

Subs: 16. Bismarck du Plessis, 17. Deon Carstens, 18. Willem Alberts, 19 Keegan Daniel, 20. Charl McLeod, 21. Monty Dumond, 22. Andries Strauss.

Cheetahs

15 Riaan Viljoen, 14 Danwel Demas, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Meyer Bosman, 11 Jongi Nokwe, 10 Naas Olivier, 9 Tewis de Bruyn, 8 Frans Viljoen, 7 Juan Smith (c), 6 Heinrich Brussow, 5 David de Villiers, 4 Nico Breedt, 3 WP Nel, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Wian du Preez.

Replacements: 16 Ryno Barnes, 17 Coenie Oosthuizen, 18 Waltie Vermeulen, 19 Ashley Johnson, 20 Sarel Pretorius, 21 Sias Ebersohn, 22 Hennie Daniller.

Referee: Jonathan Kaplan (SA). Kick-off: 6.00pm (SS1).

 

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