Sharks to be tested in every area

2010-09-18 00:00

THE Sharks have a comfortable eight-point cushion at the top of the Currie Cup log but they will be tested in every area by the revived Free State Cheetahs at King’s Park this afternoon.

John Plumtree’s team beat the Free Staters 25-13 in Bloemfontein at the end of July but the Cheetahs have suddenly found their winning ways and reeled off a series of impressive wins, including a tense 20-14 victory over the champion Blue Bulls in Bloemfontein last Saturday.

The Sharks, over the past five years, have found Free State harder to beat than any other South African team with only four victories in their last 13 games. The Free Staters also have little fear of playing at King’s Park where they have won four of their last six games.

Plumtree acknowledged them as “the toughest” of opponents.

“They are physical but can play an expansive brand of rugby.”

Indeed, the men of Bloem were as much encouraged by the decisive try scored by flank Hendro Scholtz against the Bulls — the ball was taken through 25 phases in the build-up — as they were by the final weekend victory.

It is that control shown by the Free Staters, both in keeping the ball alive and in retaining their defensive lines under pressure, which the Sharks have battled to break over the years and Plumtree is hoping that the fresh, high-tempo rugby of the Sharks will do the trick today.

“We can be unpredictable and dangerous on attack, but we have to be more clinical and, of course, we have to play for 80 minutes.”

The return from injury of impressive flank Keegan Daniel and fullback Louis Ludik has added pace to the Sharks’ attacking game, but the Free Staters are hoping they can control the flow of possession from the set pieces.

Free Staters Kobus Calldo, hooker and captain Adriaan Strauss and Coenie Oosthuizen are looking to place the relatively inexperienced front-row of Eugene van Staden, Craig Burden and Patric Cilliers under pressure but the Sharks have scrummed effectively these past weeks and they should be solid on their own ball.

The Cheetahs’ form players are their busy number eight Ashley Johnson and the smooth-passing, creative centre Meyer Bosman, who joins the Sharks next year. The Sharks will look to the beefy Willem Alberts to bash the holes which Daniel, Ryan Kankowski, Charl McLeod and Pat Lambie can exploit.

The Sharks are unbeaten at King’s Park in the Currie Cup this year and, if they can reproduce their August form, and maintain their composure and concentration for 80 minutes, they will gain the win which should ensure that they remain top of the log ahead of the semi-final play-offs.

Conversely, if the pace-setting Sharks fail to keep their focus or maintain their intensity, the Free Staters have the all-round skill and confidence to bring them down — and the chasing pack of four teams will be back in the race for top spot.

 

TEAMS

Sharks: 15. Louis Ludik, 14. Odwa Ndungane, 13. Stefan Terblanche (c), 12. Andries Strauss, 11. Lwazi Mvovo, 10. Patrick Lambie, 9. Charl McLeod, 8. Ryan Kankowski, 7. Willem Alberts, 6. Keegan Daniel, 5. Alistair Hargreaves, 4. Steven Sykes, 3. Eugene van Staden, 2. Craig Burden, 1. Patric Cilliers

Replacements: 16. Kyle Cooper, 17. Wiehahn Herbst, 18. Michael Rhodes, 19. Jacques Botes , 20. Rory Kockott, 21. Andre Pretorius, 22. Riaan Swanepoel.

Free State: 15. Hennie Daniller, 14. Philip Snyman, 13. Robert Ebersohn, 12. Meyer Bosman, 11. Jongi Nokwe, 10. Louis Strydom, 9. Tewis De Bruyn, 8. Ashley Johnson, 7. Philip Van der Walt, 6. Hendro Scholtz, 5. David de Villiers, 4. Francois Uys, 3. Kobus Calldo, 2. Adriaan Strauss (c), 1. Coenie Oosthuizen.

Replacements: 16. Skipper Badenhorst, 17. WP Nel, 18. Izak van der Westhuizen, 19. Kabamba Floors, 20. Tertius Carse, 21. Sias Ebersohn, 22. Corné Uys.

Referee: Pro Legoete.

 

ON TV

Kick-off: 3 pm — live on M-Net, SuperSport HD and SuperSport 1.

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