Du Preez preparing for a quarter-final against WP
DURBAN: The Sharks are gearing up for what coach Robert du Preez describes as a Currie Cup “quarter-final” against Western Province at Kings Park tomorrow (3pm), with all the attendant focus that goes with a do-or-die match.
It is the last round of the Currie Cup before next week’s semi-finals and with the Sharks having won 10 in a row to top the log, Du Preez is taking no chances as the competition winds up to crunch time. He wants 11 out of 11 before the home semi-final next week.
“This game is really important and we are giving it playoff status,” Du Preez said “Of course we want to have momentum going into the semis and you always have to be careful when you are coming back from a break,” he said.
“We have had a bit of disruptive week. The storm on Tuesday took care of training but we had a fantastic session today (yesterday).” he added.The coach has made just one change to the side that beat the Lions two weeks ago in Durban ahead of last week’s bye, with Lukhanyo Am finally over injury resuming at outside centre. Tristan Blewett drops to the bench.
“We are very pleased to have the guys back from the Boks, and we want to play them off the bench, which means the guys that did well against the Lions have another opportunity to start,” the coach said.
Du Preez said that with most of the squad having game time tomorrow, he would be in a good position to pick the best starting line-up for next week’s semi-final. It means a powerful bench that thus includes Chiliboy Ralepelle, Jean-Luc du Preez and Louis Schreuder, as well as wing Kobus van Wyk who, like Am, is over injury.
The return of Ralepelle and the starting berth for Franco Marais means there is no place for former Lions hooker Akker van der Merwe, an indication of the quality of depth the Sharks have in some positions.
Province have also shown that they have one of the better scrums in the Currie Cup and made a point against the Lions in their match in Johannesburg last week.
The Sharks are unbeaten at home in the Currie Cup (their sole loss was when an understrength team lost to the fullstrength Cheetahs in Bloemfontein in the first round) and the early kick-off for the Odwa Ndunange Tribute game could draw a good crowd.
“We are hoping so,” said Du Preez, who is big on re-establishing Kings Park as a feared fortress for visiting teams.