Sharks hope for easy time against Leopards in weekend of big games

2010-09-28 00:00

WHILE the Sharks cannot afford to take anything for granted, they can look forward to a relatively relaxed weekend while the other four teams in Currie Cup semi-final contention are preparing for war.

The pace-setting Sharks take on the Leopards, who have lost 12 matches on the bounce and are firmly entrenched at the bottom of the table, in Durban on Friday night and anything less than a full house of five log points would be regarded as a disaster.

In contrast, second-placed Western Province trek to Pretoria, where they have to beat the Blue Bulls if they are to challenge for top place on the log and secure a potential home final.

And, in the other big game of the weekend, the buoyant Lions, currently fifth, and the fourth-placed Free State will be involved in what will be a knock-out clash for the semi-finals.

The Lions are only two points behind the Cheetahs and both teams have comparatively easy final round games, with Free State taking on the Leopards and John Mitchell’s side playing the Pumas.

“The whole Currie Cup mystery should unravel this weekend,” said Sharks coach John Plumtree.

“There are a couple big games this coming weekend.

“We have to beat the Leopards at home and it is do or die for the Cheetahs and the Lions. Province and Bulls are also gunning for top two positions.”

The Bulls, without their Boks, have had an up and down season, but Province have not won at Loftus since 2006.

Injuries are also starting to take their toll on the teams.

The Sharks have lost their captain and centre Stefan Terblanche (dislocated elbow) for at least a fortnight.

In Cape Town, prop Wicus Blaauw will miss the rest of the Currie Cup with a hamstring tear and he joins first-choice hooker Tiaan Liebenberg on the sidelines.

The Bulls’ 39-26 weekend win over the Leopards has cost them lock Juandre Kruger, who has undergone hand surgery and is out of action for a month.

Flank Deon Stegmann (hamstring) will probably miss the Province game, while captain Gary Botha (ankle) and Dewald Potgieter (knee) face fitness tests this week.

The Sharks match against the Leopards is at 7.10 pm on Friday and will be screened on SS1.

Meanwhile, News24 reported from Cape Town yesterday that Springbok and Sharks captain John Smit has contradicted the Lions and confirmed he turned down a lucrative offer to play his rugby in Johannesburg. Smit has instead extended his contract with the Sharks.

Last week, Golden Lions Rugby Union president Kevin de Klerk issued a curious statement in which he said Smit had been in discussions with the Lions, “but we never engaged with him”.

“I would like to clarify the rumours that have circulated in the media regarding Springbok captain John Smit turning down a lucrative offer with the Lions to remain at the Sharks,” De Klerk’s statement read.

“Contrary to what has been presented to the public, the Golden Lions Rugby Union never engaged with John Smit at any stage whatsoever regarding joining the Lions. We did have discussions of him possibly joining us, but we decided against making an offer at this stage.

“I would like to emphasise that at no stage did the GLRU make an offer to John Smit,” De Klerk said.

Smit tweeted yesterday afternoon that “with time to reflect I happily signed an extension with the Sharks for the next year after months of tempting approach from Lions. Go Sharks!”

Smit underwent a successful operation to repair a chronic cervical disc last week and will be sidelined for three months, missing the Boks’ Grand Slam tour of the UK.

Top five teams’ remaining matches:

Sharks, 47 points: Leopards (h), WP (a)

WP, 43 points: Bulls (a), Sharks (h)

Blue Bulls, 38 points: WP (h), Griquas (a)

Cheetahs, 37 points: Lions (h), Leopards (a)

Lions, 35 points: Cheetahs (a), Pumas (h)

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