White: ‘Still a lot to ­play for’

2014-07-05 00:00

SHARKS director of rugby Jake White is expecting an open game from the “dangerous” Cheetahs when the two sides meet in their Super Rugby showdown today, despite the Free Staters having little to play for in Bloemfontein.

With the hosts bottom of the competition standings, pride is all they can play for as they bid to avoid ending with the wooden spoon when the regular season concludes next weekend.

The Durban side, however, have a lot still to play for, especially if an unexpected slip-up by the log-leading Waratahs does occur in Sydney. The Australians come up against the play-off chasing Highlanders, who are one of the five New Zealand teams all in with a chance of winning their conference.

“They’ve got lots still to play for in terms of a bottom-of-the-log team having the opportunity to knock off the log-leaders,” White said. “They’ve knocked over some good sides at home and are a good team.”

The Sharks boss was anticipating an open game from the Cheetahs, whose run-on team includes eight current Springboks, including Willie le Roux, who only a few weeks earlier delivered one of the best displays ever by a South Africa fullback in the first Test win over Wales at King’s Park.

“I’ve got no doubt with the form that Willie le Roux is in at Test level that they won’t want to kick the ball away,” White said. “They’ll look to hold onto the ball and build pressure.

“They’ve got seven guys who played in last week’s Test starting for them, they’ve got guys with confidence who will continue to play well.”

Their other Boks are Cornal Hendricks, Johan Goosen, Teboho Mohoje, Lood de Jager, Coenie Oosthuizen, Adriaan Strauss and Trevor Nyakane.

The Sharks on the other hand have named a line-up shy of several of their own Boks — probably the fewest in any of their starting XVs from this season.

Bismarck du Plessis and Jannie du Plessis are on the bench, along with Willem Alberts, while Tendai Mtawarira is missing as White made seven changes to his team, not out of any disrespect for the Cheetahs, however.

“It’s certainly not out of disrespect for the Free State team or for one minute thinking that we’re not taking this game seriously,” he explained. “We want to give these guys a chance and now that we’ve qualified for the play-offs, we have that opportunity to rotate a bit.

“I’ve had time to work with these players while the Boks were away and it gives us the chance to see how good they are and hopefully they can stake a claim to playing in the last couple of rounds and knockout rugby as well.”

White insisted he had done all his math to work out the different qualifying scenarios for his side. “If things go to according to a plan this weekend — if the Waratahs win and the Highlanders and Crusaders lose, and we win, then there is no need to play next weekend, because first and second place will have been decided.

“We won’t be able to catch the Waratahs and we’ll both be too far ahead to be caught by the two New Zealand sides. But you can’t jump the gun, you’ve got to first see what happens this weekend. If that’s the case, then next weekend becomes another debate about what team we put out, how much risk do we take in terms of injuries, do we start preparing for the semi-finals. Let’s finish this weekend and then look ahead.”

The Sharks have won on their last three trips to Bloemfontein and have ­also emerged victorious in six out of their last seven meetings overall.

Teams:

Cheetahs: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Rayno Benjamin, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Teboho Mohoje, 6 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 5 Francois Uys, 4 Lood de Jager, 3 Coenie Ootshuizen, 2 Adriaan Strauss (captain), 1 Trevor Nyakane

Substitutes: 16 Caylib Oosthuizen, 17 Luan de Bruin, 18 Carl Wegner, 19 Jean Cook, 20 Henco Venter, 21 Shaun Venter, 22 Elgar Watts, 23 Hennie Daniller.

Sharks: 15. SP Marais, 14. JP Pietersen, 13. S’bura Sithole, 12. Frans Steyn, 11. Lwazi Mvovo, 10. Tim Swiel, 9. Cobus Reinach, 8. Ryan Kankowski, 7. Jean Deysel (captain), 6. Marcell Coetzee, 5. Anton Bresler, 4. Stephan Lewies, 3. Lourens Adriaanse, 2. Kyle Cooper, 1. Dale Chadwick

Substitutes: 16. Thomas du Toit, 17. Bismarck du Plessis, 18. Jannie du Plessis, 19. Willem Alberts, 20. Tera Mtembu, 21. Charl McLeod, 22. Odwa Ndungane, 23. Tonderai Chavhanga.

WEEKEND FIXTURES:

Today: Crusaders vs Blues, 9.35 am, Force vs Reds, 11.40 am,

Stormers vs Bulls, 5.05 pm,

Cheetahs vs Sharks, 7.10 pm

Tomorrow: Waratahs vs Highlanders, 8.05 am.

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