Sharks taking nothing for granted

2009-08-29 00:00

THE memories of their failed Super 14 campaign are still fresh and the Sharks are determined not to make the same mistakes when they take on Western Province in their second round Currie Cup match at King’s Park this afternoon.

The Sharks, Currie Cup champions and log-leaders, can take a decisive step towards hosting a semi-final by beating the second-placed Province today, but they are taking nothing for granted.

Province were the only team to beat the Sharks in the first round, downing them in the wet at Newlands in the opening fixture.

The Sharks, in mood and style, have come some distance since that early disappointment and now have a three-point cushion at the top of the log. They have a favourable second round draw and a win today would leave them in the box seats to finish in the top two on the log.

But don’t mention that to Johann Muller, who is back as captain after a long injury break when fullback Stefan Terblanche successfully led the team.

“No, we cannot look too far ahead,” Muller said. “Look at what happened in the Super 14. We were also at the top halfway through and we didn’t even make the semi-finals. The wheels came right off. We have to keep our focus and it is all about beating Province this weekend.”

It is not only their level of concentration that will be tested this afternoon. WP, after years of being pummelled at forward, believe they can now bully the Sharks and captain Luke Watson said they would target Muller’s team at the set pieces.

“Yeah, the set pieces, winning our own ball and cleanly will be crucial if we are going to stretch them defensively,” head coach John Plumtree said yesterday. “But there will also be a lot of intensity at the breakdowns.

“Province have an experienced pack and they will be a real test for us.”

There will be more than passing interest in the showing of new flyhalf Juan Hernandez, who is making his first appearance at King’s Park.

“Look, he is a class act, no doubt of that, and he has prepared well this week,” said Plumtree. “But I hope everyone gives him time to settle. He is still getting used to the way we play and our guys are learning how he plays. We mustn’t expect too much too soon.”

Watson, a former Shark, leads a strong Province pack that has been beefed up by the signing of locks, All Black Chris Jack and the tall Anton van Zyl, while they also believe their scrummaging problems are behind them. Front-foot ball will bring their talented backrow of Watson, Duane Vermeulen and Francois Louw into play, while taking the pressure off their young backline.

The key is whether the Sharks forwards perform and, if they do their job, this organised, well-coached side with the tightest defence in the Currie Cup, and a host of unsung heroes, should gain what could prove a critical victory in front of their home crowd.

Sharks: Stefan Terblanche; Chris Jordaan, Andries Strauss, Riaan Swanepoel, Lwazi Mvovo; Juan Hernandez, Rory Kockott; Keegan Daniel, Jean Deysel, Jacques Botes, Johann Muller (capt), Steven Sykes, Wiehahn Herbst, Skipper Badenhorst, Deon Carstens/Patric Cilliers.

Replacements: Craig Burden, Patric Cilliers/Deon Carstens, Albert v an den Berg, Michael Rhodes, Charl McLeod, Monty Dumond, Waylon Murray.

Western Province: Joe Pietersen; Tonderai Chavhanga, Juan de Jongh, Morgan Newman, Gio Aplon; Peter Grant, Dewaldt Duvenage; Luke Watson

(captain), Duane Vermeulen, Francois Louw, Anton van Zyl, Chris Jack, Brock Harris, Tiaan Liebenberg and Wicus Blaauw.

Replacements: Deon Fourie, JD Moller, De Kock Steenkamp, Pieter Louw, Bolla Conradie, Frikkie Welsh and JJ Engelbrecht.

Referee: Jonathan Kaplan

Last night: Leopards X Boland X

Today: Sharks v Western Province (King’s Park, 3 pm – live on M-Net and SuperSport 1) , Griquas v Cheetahs (GWK Park, Kimberley, 3 pm), Lions v Blue Bulls (Ellis Park Stadium, 5.05 pm – live on M-Net, M-Net HD and SuperSport 1)

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