Defence key for Sharks

2013-08-23 00:00

AGAINST Griquas their set piece was wonky, a week later their defence went missing against the Golden Lion, but tonight the Sharks will have to tick all the boxes if they are to topple the Free State Cheetahs in tonight’s Currie Cup match in Bloemfontein.

The Sharks coaches, with good reason, are looking for a consistent showing after the patchy rugby of the past fortnight. They are also bumping a settled Free State outfit crowded with players who took their franchise into the Super Rugby play-offs for the first time in their history just a month ago.

The Free Staters were surprisingly pipped at the death (15-14) by Western Province at Newlands at the weekend when their scrum, in particular, failed to fire.

But Springbok prop Trevor Nyakane, disciplined and dropped by Heyneke Meyer, is back in Bloemfontein and Free State coach Naka Drotské said his return could not have come at a better time.

But it is the quality of the Cheetahs’ backrowers, and the pace and skill of their backs, that will most trouble the Sharks, particularly after their poor defensive performance against the Lions a week ago.

The worrying statistic to emerge from that narrow win was that the Sharks made just over 90 tackles, but missed 30. Coach Brad Macleod-Henderson said that the Sharks had spent the week working on the defensive problems and there will be a searching examination of their organisation and commitment tonight.

The Sharks coaches have selected boldly in naming the 20-year-old rookie flyhalf Fred Zeilinga ahead of Springbok veteran Butch James for what promises to be a tough, physical contest.

But backline coach Sean Everitt said the selection was not a risk.

“Age has nothing to do with it. Fred is playing well, he is confident and he deserves his place. He has a good kicking game and has done well coming off the bench in the two games [against Griquas and the Lions]. It is now his turn to show what he can do from the start.”

The Sharks have had dreadful starts in both Currie Cup games and trailed badly in the early stages.

“It is worrying,” said Macleod-Henderson.

“It is something we have tried to address and we did show a marked improvement against the Lions. If we continue to make that progression, the results will take care of themselves.”

Flank Keegan Daniel returns from injury and he will add a fresh dimension to the Sharks’ attack if he can recapture his old form.

But it is the Sharks’ defence that holds the key. If it leaks as badly as it did against the Lions just a week ago, then the well-balanced Free Staters, in their first Currie Cup game at home, will prevail — and their supporters will be all over the bar shouting.

Sharks: 15. SP Marais, 14. Sizo Maseko, 13. Louis Ludik, 12. Heimar Williams, 11. Lwazi Mvovo, 10. Fred Zeilinga, 9. Charl McLeod, 8. Jacques Botes (capt), 7. Jean Deysel, 6. Keegan Daniel, 5. Marco Wentzel, 4. Edwin Hewitt, 3. Wiehahn Herbst, 2. Kyle Cooper, 1. Dale Chadwick.

Replacements: 16. Craig Burden, 17. Rayno Gerber, 18. Peet Marais, 19. Lubabalo Mtembu, 20. Cobus Reinach, 21. Butch James, 22. Jaco van Tonder.

Cheetahs: 15. Hennie Daniller, 14. Riaan Smit, 13. Johann Sadie, 12. Robert Ebersohn, 11. Raymond Rhule, 10. Elgar Watts, 9. Sarel Pretorius, 8. Philip van der Walt, 7. Lappies Labuschagne, 6. Boom Prinsloo (capt), 5. Lood de Jager, 4. Teboho Mohoje, 3. Trevor Nyakane, 2. Hercu Liebenberg, 1. Caylib Oosthuizen. Replacements: 16. Ethienne Reynecke, 17. Rossouw de Klerk, 18. Freddie Ngoza, 19. Davon Raubenheimer, 20. Kevin Luiters, 21. Willie du Plessis, 22. Joubert Engelbrecht.

Kick- off 7.10 pm. Referee: Jason Jaftha.

Tomorrow’s Currie Cup games:

Griquas vs WP 3.00 pm;

Bulls vs Lions, 5.05 pm.

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