Lively Griquas a tough prospect

2012-09-08 00:00

IF forewarned is indeed forearmed, then the Sharks should be well prepared and braced for a fierce battle when they take on Griquas in their Currie Cup clash in Kimberley this afternoon.

Coach John Plumtree has spent the week publicly talking up the Griqua threat, preparing both his players and the Sharks’ supporters for what will be a most taxing assignment.

A glance at the Currie Cup log would suggest that the Sharks, three points clear at the top, have the quality and Super Rugby experience to prevail over the bottom-of-the-log Griquas. But there are other significant factors involved.

The Griquas, buoyant after their rollicking win over the title-holding Golden Lions at Ellis Park, should be even more of a force in front of their home support and they know that the Sharks struggle to express themselves in Kimberley.

Plumtree, within an hour of watching his team step back from the brink to beat the Free State Cheetahs 34-32 at King’s Park a week ago, was warning of the dangers awaiting his team in Kimberley, and during the week he again highlighted Griquas’ strengths.

“Playing at altitude is a test and we’ve lost there the last couple of years. Griquas will be confident and it will be a real challenge.

“The way Griquas dismantled the Lions was very impressive. They scored a try at the end through 13 phases starting in their own 22, which was top-drawer stuff.

“In the first few rounds they haven’t played for 80 minutes, but they did at Ellis Park against a good Lions side, against the Currie Cup champions.

“We have a lot of respect for them. They have mongrel in their pack, they are very competitive and they are a complete package.”

Plumtree said Griquas had a number of influential players who were performing well, but fullback Willie le Roux was worrying him the most.

“He is a massive threat and he could develop into one of the best attacking backs in South Africa. I like the way Griquas use him on attack. He’s quick, has a great step and a beautiful pass. He’s going to get better and better and he clearly has a big future.”

But of course the Sharks have strengths of their own, with Plumtree doing an excellent job in filling the dozen gaps left by departing Springboks and the walking wounded.

And instead of withdrawing into the laager and instructing his team to play percentage rugby to paper over areas of potential weaknesses, Plumtree has gone on the attack. The Sharks, with a high-tempo, ball-in-the-hand approach, have scored the most tries (14 in four outings) in the Currie Cup and it has brought rich rewards.

Still, Plumtree may well consider tinkering just slightly with his game plan today against the energetic Griquas, who have adopted a similar expansive style. It would certainly make sense for the Sharks, at altitude and in the middle of the afternoon, to play a more territory-based game and force Griquas to run from deep.

Riaan Viljoen, the former Griqua fullback back on his old stamping ground in Kimberley, is at flyhalf for the Sharks and he certainly has the lengthy kicking game to exploit the local conditions.

This weekend’s action ends the first round of the Currie Cup. The Sharks play three of their five second-round games in Durban and a win for the log-leading Sharks today would leave them perfectly placed to secure a home semi-final.

Plumtree said the Sharks had to “embrace the challenge” the day would bring.

But if they are to return with what would be an important win, they will have to succeed where the Lions failed at Ellis Park last weekend — by placing the Griquas pack under pressure, taking their scoring chances clinically and making their tackles for 80 minutes.


Sharks: 15 Louis Ludik, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Paul Jordaan, 12 Meyer Bosman, 11 Sbura Sithole, 10 Riaan Viljoen, 9 Charl McLeod, 8 Keegan Daniel, 7 Jean Deysel (c), 6 Jacques Botes, 5 Anton Bresler, 4 Jandre Marais, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Monde Hadebe, 1 Dale Chadwick.

Replacements: 16 Pieter Dixon, 17 Julian Redelinghuys, 18 Peet Marais, 19 Francois Kleinhans, 20 Brynard Stander, 21. Cobus Reinach, 22. Marius Joubert.

Griquas: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Luzuko Vulindlu, 13 Jean Stemmet, 12 Walter Venter, 11 Rocco Jansen, 10 Francois Brummer, 9 Marnus Hugo, 8 Leon Karemaker, 7 Wesley Wilkins, 6 Marnus Schoeman, 5 Martin Muller, 4 Ligtoring Landman, 3 Lourens Adriaanse, 2 Ryno Barnes (captain), 1 Steph Roberts

Replacements: 16 Simon Westraadt, 17 Ivann Espag, 18 Frikkie Spies, 19 Justin Downey, 20 Jacques Coetzee, 21 Marnitz Boshoff, 22 Richard Lawson.

Referee: Lesego Legoete. Kick-off: 3.00pm.

Today’s fixtures (home team first): Griquas vs Sharks , 3.00 pm; Blue Bulls vs Lions, 5.05 pm; Free State vs WP, 7.10 pm.

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