Big Ryan a marked man

2008-10-06 00:00

The Sharks are waiting anxiously on the fitness of tall lock Albert van den Berg ahead of Saturday’s Currie Cup semi-final against the Lions at King’s Park.

Van den Berg, an ideal impact player, who adds variety to the lineout and mobility to the pack, injured his shoulder in scoring a try early in the second half against Griquas on Saturday.

He immediately left the field and coach John Plumtree said yesterday that the lock was still in some pain.

“We are waiting on a scan, but we’ll give him the week before we assess his fitness.”

The Sharks have captain Johann Muller and Steven Sykes to lock the scrum, but they already have Alistair Hargreaves on the injury list and the loss of Van den Berg would leave them without back-up in the second-row.

Plumtree said that, apart from Van den Berg, “we came through the Griquas match pretty well.”

Hooker Bismarck du Plessis took a knock to the knee, but Plumtree is satisfied he will be fit by Saturday.

Meanwhile, the Lions aim to cancel out the threat of Sharks number eight Ryan Kankowski on Saturday.

Lions coach Eugene Eloff believes his team can neutralise Kankowski by playing a tighter game.

Kankowksi proved a major threat in the Sharks’ recent win over the Lions at Ellis Park.

“Kankowski is a very special player,” Eloff told News24 after Western Province had beaten the Lions 14-6 at Newlands.

“He has that X factor. If you allow the game to become loose, you bring him into play. But if you make it a physical battle where they have to come and clean out the rucks, you test a guy’s character.

“We played the game much too fast when we played them in Johannesburg recently. We will have to be much more clinical in Durban,” Eloff said.

“The Sharks and Western Province thrive on turn-over possession from broken play. If you open up the game against them and you’re inaccurate, you’re in trouble. We controlled the game at Ellis Park until we began making mistakes.”

Eloff said his players were bruised and sore after defending resolutely against Province on Saturday to limit them to a 14-6 win and knock the Cape Town side out of the Currie Cup.

He said the narrow defeat “felt like a victory” because his side had qualified for the semi-finals.

“I take my hat off to the guys for their courageous defence,” adding that he would have to rest his players this week to allow them to recover.

Western Province captain Jean de Villiers, while conceding that the knock-out semi-final could throw up an upset, believes the Sharks will advance to meet the against the Bulls in the final.

WP coach Allister Coetzee also says the Sharks will be difficult to beat.

“They have been playing good rugby throughout the year. They are a consistent and balanced team.

They have depth and the advantage of playing at home,” Coetzee said.

The Sharks hardly need reminding that they were beaten by the Lions in Durban in last year’s semi-final.

The Bulls will play the Cheetahs in the second semi-final in Pretoria on Saturday. Last year Free State won that encounter 11-6 in Bloemfontein.

The Durban match starts at 2.30pm and the Loftus Versfeld match at 4.30pm.

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