Sykes in doubt for Cheetahs clash

2009-04-08 00:00

Steven Sykes, the powerful Sharks lock, is in some doubt for Saturday’s Super 14 clash against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.

Sykes is down with flu and has not practised with the team this week, assistant coach Grant Bashford said yesterday.

“I think he will probably play but we’ll have to see how quickly he recovers.”

Albert van den Berg, the lanky Springbok lineout specialist, is on stand by. While the Sharks would miss Sykes’s physical presence on the drive and in the scrum, Van den Berg would give them another jumper against the strong Cheetahs lineout.

The only other likely changes to the Sharks line-up will be in the front-row where head coach John Plumtree will again rotate his five Springboks. John Smit will probably start in his favoured position at hooker with Deon Carstens and Jannie du Plessis his props. This would allow loosehead Beast Mtawarira and Bismarck du Plessis to play off the bench.

The Cheetahs, meanwhile, are desperate for a win to lift their flagging support in Bloemfontein.

Only 11 300 spectators watched the Free State side lose 27-40 to the Brumbies at the weekend, of which only 2 000 paid.

The Cheetahs have only two log points and are 12 behind the 13th-placed Reds.

There was support for the Cheetahs from Brumbies coach Andy Friend, who said he has great sympathy for the Bloemfontein team.

“I’ve watched them closely all season. They have enough talent, no doubt of that, but they have been unlucky at times.”

Naka Drotske, the Cheetahs coach, says a lack of concentration at vital times cost his team three tries against the Brumbies.

“We are not looking for excuses, but we have to turn things round against the Sharks.”

The Cheetahs backline coach Hawies Fourie says his players are starting to spark on attack, but he is looking for a vastly improved defensive display against the Sharks.

He says the mood in the squad is surprisingly upbeat considering they have lost all seven games this season.

“If you saw these guys in training, you wouldn’t believe they hadn’t won a game,” he told reporters. “They’re keen to get stuck into the Sharks and the most important thing is that we are up to it defensively … ”

The match on Saturday kicks off at 3 pm.

Probable Sharks team: Stefan Terblanche, Odwa Ndungane, Adrian Jacobs, Riaan Swanepoel, Luzuko Vulindlu, Francois Steyn, Rory Kockott, Ryan Kankowski, Keegan Daniel, Jacques Botes, Johann Muller (c), Steven Sykes/Albert van den Berg, Jannie du Plessis, John Smit, Deon Carstens.

Replacements: Bismarck du Plessis, Tendai Mtawarira, Albert van den Berg/Steven Sykes, Skholiwe Ndlovu, Charl McLeod, Monty Dumond, Chris Jordaan.

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