Depleted Sharks face testing encounter against bouyant Boland

2009-07-17 00:00

PLAYING at home against Boland would not usually cause the Sharks coaching staff sleepless nights, but there is reason to be concerned about this evening’s Currie Cup clash at King’s Park.

The Currie Cup champions, without 11 Springboks, eight of themwith the Tri-Nations squad and three injured, are stretched and a defeat in inhospitable surrounds at Newlands at the weekend would have done little for the confidence of their young side.

Assistant coach Grant Bashford again emphasised yesterday that there is little point in looking for excuses. “Yes, we will have to work hard to win, but we have some exciting young talent and must just work around our strengths.”

Bashford said Western Province at home and in conditions which suit the big left boot of Willem de Waal were always going to be difficult to overcome. “We have learnt from the mistakes we made at Newlands and I hope that is reflected in the way we play against Boland.”

The Sharks, even without six Bok forwards and their injured captain Johann Muller, still have a workmanlike pack not dissimilar to the one which helped them on their way to the Currie Cup final — and the title — last year. It is certainly mobile, with lock Albert van den Berg, hooker Craig Burden and props Patric Cilliers and Deon Carstens complementing the speed of the backrow.

Behind the forwards, however, they are short of pace and playmakers. At Newlands, in the wet, they attempted, unsuccessfully, to shield rookie flyhalf Guy Cronje, but he should be far more at home in the more charitable conditions at King’s Park.

The Sharks are desperate for a win. World-class Argentinian flyhalf Juan Martin Hernandez, once he has completed the paperwork, will be be rushed into the team, perhaps even for next weekend’s clash with the Blue Bulls, but the Sharks need to stay in touch with the log-leaders in the meantime.

Boland, bolstered by their 26-18 victory over the North West Leopards, will arrive at King’s Park with a spring in their step, lifted as much by the Sharks’ disappointing showing last week as their own successful one.

They have made just one change: Deon Scholtz shifting from wing to centre in place of the injured Cornal Hendricks and Mark Harris promoted from the bench.

Boland coach Deon Davids said this week his team are confident they will improve on their first-round form and down the Sharks. “We are feeling very positive after our win and we will be a better team.” He admitted they would have to be. “The Sharks team will bounce back after their loss to a very good Province team,” he said.

The Sharks coaching staff are hoping he is right.

Kick-off: 7.10 pm. TV: SuperSport 7.

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