Sharks shake off rust for Cheetahs

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One of three changes in the front row, Sharks hooker Fez Mbatha will hope to cross the advantage line against the Cheetahs as often as he did against the Western Province at Hollywoodbets Kings Park in February. PHOTO: Gallo
One of three changes in the front row, Sharks hooker Fez Mbatha will hope to cross the advantage line against the Cheetahs as often as he did against the Western Province at Hollywoodbets Kings Park in February. PHOTO: Gallo

It won’t get any easier for a hurting Sharks outfit as they head into today’s Currie Cup match against the unbeaten Cheetahs at Toyota Stadium in Bloemfontein.

The men in black and white are third on the log, leading next-best Griquas by just three-points after their shock 10-20 loss to the Pumas in Durban a week ago.

Following that lacklustre display, as well as some reflection time, coach Etienne Fynn is expecting a big improvement from his charges.

‘Emotionally bruised’

“[I’m definitely expecting] a reaction — a positive one. The guys were still a bit bruised, emotionally bruised, on Monday, but they’ve certainly trained well this entire week. So we look forward to a positive performance.

“Reflection is everything, self-reflection is everything. I try to do that myself, because the buck ultimately stops with me. Then secondly they’ve [the players] got to do some self-reflection.

etienne fynn
Sharks assistant coach Etienne Fynn.

“Fortunately we’ve had some positive reactions from the guys, who you could call the ‘guilty parties’,” said Fynn.

The second-placed Cheetahs have won all eight of their games so far and have been buoyed by the performances of Springbok duo Ruan Pienaar and Frans Steyn. Fynn says his side will be looking to target the Free Staters’ star men today.

All about managing the pace

“They’ve got a very settled group, combinations that have played throughout the tournament, and we just simply have to put them under pressure and force those players to make poor decisions. And that’s ultimately how you effect any settled side.

“We’ve just got to bring the heat, and we’re well aware of how important those individuals are in the Cheetahs’ cause.

“You’ve got to unsettle them and ensure the quality ball that they’re used to getting is disrupted.

“They certainly do know how to turn it on; how to open the tap and close it.

“They can also manage a game pretty well. They definitely do the throttle game really well, turn you, put you back and make you make mistakes.

Fynn said: 

“They’re playing at home, they’re a settled combination, unbeaten: it goes without saying it’s going to be a very tough Saturday. Our guys are certainly up to it.”

The Sharks hadn’t played for a month when they fell to the Pumas and did look rusty at times. However, Fynn has pointed out that the team won’t have that excuse to fall back on this week.

“[We’re definitely expecting] more cohesion. We trained well. If you look across the make-up of our team, 80% of the guys have played the entire Currie Cup.

“So rustiness is an excuse for one game, not two consecutive. We’ll be better.”

The match kicks-off at 2.30 pm.

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