THE Sharks appear vulnerable and Griquas, licking their chops, are anticipating their own feeding frenzy in the Currie Cup match in Kimberley this afternoon.
The Sharks have traditionally battled on the hard, brown Kimberley pitch where the raucous yokels stoke up a Griqua team eager to prove a point against the pros from Durban.
And this year, the Sharks’ job will be even more demanding. Firstly, the Sharks, short of a dozen players, are battling with personnel, form and continuity; secondly, Griquas are riding a wave of confidence after beating Western Province at home and then only losing 36-32 to the Lions, in spite of converting only one of their six tries.
Certainly, Griquas coach Dawie Theron is confident.
“I believe we can upset the Sharks if we play as we did against Province and, more importantly, the guys really believe they can win.”
Coach John Plumtree conceded that the Sharks have seldom been as inexperienced and disrupted as they are for this trip to the Big Hole.
“The backline has been badly disjointed by injury and the comings and goings of the Boks. Grant Bashford [assistant coach] has had no continuity,” he told Weekend Witness.
Certainly the Sharks know what to expect in Kimberley and at least complacency will not be a problem.
“Griquas are waiting for us and we face a heck of a challenge. Still, the players have trained really well this week in spite of the disruptions,” Plumtree said.
The New Zealander, who faces a searching test of his coaching and motivational skills, has not taken the obvious selection route by including all the experience he could muster.
Henno Mentz, Andries Strauss, Albert van den Berg and Steven Sykes are all missing from the starting line-up and youngsters are there in their place.
The experience in the side is crowded into the pack and Plumtree is looking to his forwards to lay a solid base and take some of the pressure off the young backline, where flyhalf Monty Dumond has a critical role in mixing the kicking game with the running one.
“We need accuracy in our kicking and our handling and we need to keep our discipline and our structures. But, above all, we need our forwards to stand up physically to the Griqua pack, otherwise it will be a long and painful afternoon,” Plumtree said.
More experienced and talented Sharks teams have trekked to Kimberley and failed to deliver. It is a test of body and mind and certainly these young, patched-up Sharks will have done exceptionally well if they can return from Kimberley tonight with a win.
Sharks: Stefan Terblanche, Chris Jordaan, Waylon Murray, Riaan Swanepoel, Lwazi Mvovo, Monty Dumond, Scott Mathie, Keegan Daniel, Jean Deysel, Jacques Botes, Johann Muller (capt), Alistair Hargreaves, Jannie du Plessis, Skipper Badenhorst, Deon Carstens
Replacements: Craig Burden, BJ Botha, Steven Sykes, Skholiwe Ndlovu, Charl McLeod, Andries Strauss, Andrew Borgen.
Griquas: Conrad Barnard, Gavin Passens Bjorn Basson, Riaan Viljoen, MJ Mentz, Tobie Botes, Sarel Pretorius, Heinrich Stride, Stephan Gerber, Gareth Krause (capt), Jacques Lombaard, Wayne van Heerden, Ruaan du Preez, Hans van Dyk and Albertus Buckle.
Replacements: James van der Walt, Dean Hopp, Cilliers Coetzer, Rohan Kitshoff, Dougie Helmuth, Lafras Uys and Eagon Seconds.
Referee: Deon van Blommestein. Kick-off: 3 pm (M-Net and SS1).
Other Currie Cup fixtures: Boland vs Free State (3 pm); Lions v WP, 5.05 pm (M-Net and SS1).