Stalwarts in for Lions clash

2012-08-14 00:00

THREE of the Sharks’ most consistent Super Rugby players, fullback Louis Ludik, scrumhalf Charl McLeod and lock Anton Bresler, will be available for Saturday night’s Currie Cup clash against the champion Lions at King’s Park.

The three players, who were heavily involved in the prolonged Super Rugby campaign, were rested for the weekend trip to Newlands, where the Sharks upset Western Province in the rain.

Ludik is likely to take over from the young Gouws Prinsloo at fullback with McLeod replacing Cobus Reinach at scrumhalf. The return of Bresler, who ended the Super Rugby season in good form, for Jandre Marais will boost the shaky Sharks lineout.

Reinach was impressive in the wet, testing conditions, often behind a Sharks pack on the retreat, and he combined well with new flyhalf Riaan Viljoen. The nippy scrumhalf also saved a certain try with a head-on tackle on big Province lock Don Armand and he showed that he has the temperament and skill to play at this level.

Coach John Plumtree praised the performance of new flyhalf Riaan Viljoen, who played a major role with his big boot and kicked the match-winning drop goal in the closing minutes.

“It’s been a long time since Riaan played flyhalf but he did very well. I think he plays better when he’s closer to the ball.”

Assistant coach Grant Bashford said yesterday that the Sharks had to be “grateful” for winning a game with so little territory and possession.

“Province will look back at the game and rue the loss. Every time they put points on the board, they’d drop the kick-off or make a mistake and we took all the opportunities that presented themselves. So from that point of view, it’s a big positive. But we have to be honest and admit that there is still plenty of work ahead.

“In the first half we just got penalised out of the game, every time we had possession, we were penalised and would end up back in our own territory defending.”

Bashord said the Sharks were “underdone” for the match with limited time after their travels and waterlogged training pitches hampering their preparation: “So getting the result was fantastic, especially away from home.”

He said the Lions would be boosted by their weekend win over the Cheetahs: “They have a group that plays together a lot and they will be really excited about coming to Durban.

“But we were successful during the Super Rugby tournament at home, so we are hoping we can carry that form into the Currie Cup.”

Down in Cape Town, the unexpected weekend defeat went down badly with Province coach Allister Coetzee who carried the same gloomy look he had a fortnight ago when the Sharks knocked the Stormers out of the Super Rugby competition.

“We lost a home game … No WP player can be proud of this effort. It was a comedy of errors on our part that cost us the game. We dominated at the scrums and lineouts, and it’s not often that we’ve done that against a Sharks side, so that was pleasing.

“But we couldn’t catch the ball and the Sharks enjoyed two lucky bounces. There were far too many individual errors and so all our good work was undone,” said Coetzee.

“We have to pick up the pieces and get out confidence up. It’s still hard to accept defeat when one considers that for 30 of the 40 minutes of the second half we played the game in the Sharks’ half of the field.”

The Sharks Lions match kicks off at 7.10 pm on Saturday.

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