Confident Sharks to Newlands

2008-08-07 00:00

A week is an age in South African rugby — particularly if a Springbok coach is involved — and the Sharks, up against Western Province in a Currie Cup match, will take to Newlands with a spring in their step.

It has been a good week for the Sharks and a shocking one for Province.

Last Saturday, the Sharks travelled to Kimberley with a patched-up, inexperienced team and came away with one of their best wins against Griquas in years. Since then Bok coach Peter de Villiers, apparently without consulting his fellow-selectors, sent Ruan Pienaar, Frans Steyn and Odwa Ndungane home and the surprised Sharks were the beneficiaries.

De Villiers said he hoped that Steyn and Pienaar, by playing for the Sharks, would prove themselves as successors to Butch James. Steyn is at inside centre tonight with Pienaar at scrumhalf.

Province, meanwhile, have had no such luck. De Villiers granted them no favours and flyhalf Willem de Waal, who has tormented the Sharks so often down the years, suffered a serious injury which left Alistair Coetzee without an obvious replacement.

The Sharks, with their confidence high and an impressive spread of international talent, ought to come away from Newlands with a decisive win, one that will leave Province lagging well behind the top four in the competition and in serious danger of missing the semi-finals.

But Province will be desperate and they’ll lift themselves tonight.

“People have short memories,” Sharks coach John Plumtree told The Witness from Cape Town yesterday.

“Just a week ago, we were under pressure and just about everyone thought we would lose in Kimberley. Now Province are being written off. It becomes a mindset thing. We know what we have to do but it really is up to the players.”

Plumtree said the Sharks would take time to settle. We have only had two training sessions and the combination of 9, 10 and 12 [Pienaar, Frederic Michalak and Steyn] have not played together for some time.”

Plumtree said that he expected both tighthead prop Jannie du Plessis and number eight Keegan Daniel to pass late fitness tests. Replacement prop BJ Botha has apparently cried off with flu and did not travel to Cape Town and Robbie Harris replaces him on the bench.

In spite of the disruptions, Province have an even and lively spread of Super 14 talent. The home team are led by former Sharks centre Gcobani Bobo, who is enjoying one of his better seasons; they are well-served at lock by Ross Skeate and Adriaan Fondse and they have a capable backrow. The focus is on new flyhalf Joe Pietersen, a skilful ball player usually seen on the wing.

But the real pressure will be at forward where the Sharks, who had a field day against Griquas, will seek to dominate.

If the revitalised Sharks pack, with Jean Deysel and Deon Carstens leading the charge, can regain the mood and momentum of Kimberley, their talented backs should prove matchwinners. But, as Plumtree has been telling them all week, Province at home can never be taken lightly and a week is a long time in South African rugby.


Sharks: Stefan Terblanche, Odwa Ndungane, Waylon Murray, Francois Steyn, Chris Jordaan, Frederic Michalak, Ruan Pienaar, Keegan Daniel, Jean Deysel, Jacques Botes, Johann Muller (capt.), Albert van den Berg, Jannie du Plessis/BJ Botha, Skipper Badenhorst, Deon Carstens.

Replacements: Craig Burden, Robbie Harris, Steven Sykes, Skholiwe Ndlovu, Scott Mathi, Bradley Barritt, Riaan Swanepoel.

WP: Gio Aplon, Wylie Human, PJ Vermeulen, Gcobani Bobo (captain), Tonderai Chavhanga; Joe Pietersen, Bolla Conradie; Schalk Brits, Nick Koster, Francois Louw, Pieter Louw, Ross Skeate, Adriaan Fondse, Brok Harris, Schalk Brits, Wicus Blaauw.

Replacements: Simon Westraadt/Deon Fourie, JC Kritzinger, AJ Venter, Dewaldt Duvenhage, Matthew Rosslee, Morgan Newman.

Kick-off: 7.10pm: SuperSport.1.

Other Currie Cup games today (home team first):

Boland vs Falcons (4 pm, not televised).

Free State vs Griquas (6 pm, not televised).

Blue Bulls vs Lions (7.10 pm live TV coverage on SS7).

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