GRIQUAS’ LAST HURRAH AT HOME
THE TAFEL Lager Griquas may have home ground advantage in their Currie Cup Premier Division fixture against the Free State Cheetahs tomorrow at 2pm, but there is very little else to smile about.
In the last encounter between these teams, in the first round of the competition, it was Griquas who managed a 30-25 victory in Bloemfontein. They will be doing all they can to keep the Cheetahs from avenging that defeat.
Griquas have meanwhile been decimated by injuries and they face a Cheetahs team that, though weakened as a result of their first string players contesting the Pro14 competition in Europe, realise a win over Griquas will help them secure a home semi-final in this season where all the teams with the exception of the Sharks have been inconsistent.
The Sharks can only be pipped to top spot by the Cheetahs, and that is only if the Cheetahs get a full house of five log points from all their remaining three games and the Sharks lose both their remaining games and fail to pick up at least one losing bonus point.
Meanwhile, with all the injuries to the Griqua squad, the selectors have made nine changes, as well as two positional switches to the starting line-up.
Assistant and backline coach Pieter Bergh told the DFA that putting a team together was a massive challenge. “It has been really a tough week with all the injuries from the last game,” he said.
“On Tuesday afternoon there were only 20 players who were able to practice, which made training really difficult. However, there is still an abundance of positivity
AJ Coertzen (c), Kyle Steyn, Tertius Kruger, Johnathan Francke, Enver Brandt, George Whitehead, Christiaan Meyer, Conway Pretorius, Sias Koen (vc), Wendal Wehr, FP Pelser, Sintu Manjezi, Stephan Kotze, AJ Le Roux and Liam Hendricks.
Marius Fourie, Louwrens Strydom, Wandile Putuma, Shaun McDonald, De Wet Kruger, Renier Botha and André Swarts.
amongst the players and we want to finish the season strongly by winning our last two games against the Cheetahs and Pumas.”
AJ Coertzen returns to fullback in place of Eric Zana, while Johnathan Franke returns to inside centre, Kyle Steyn then replaces Ederies Arendse on right wing, and Tertius Kruger moves into Steyn’s position at outside centre.
Christiaan Meyer, meanwhile, starts at scrumhalf which means that Renier Botha moves to the bench. Conway Pretorius takes over the No 8 jersey from Kevin Kaba, and Wendal Wehr’s inclusion means that De Wet Kruger moves to the bench. In the Griqua second row FP Pelser takes over at lock in place of Jonathan Janse van Rensburg, but the front row sees a total of three changes with Liam Hendricks starting at tight-head, replacing Devon Martinus, AJ le Roux returns as hooker in place of Wilmar Arnoldi and Stephan Kotze replaces Nicolaas Oosthuizen at loose-head.
Now, if all those changes have not made your head spin, there are some more – the bench will also be warmed by some new … faces.
Marius Fourie makes a welcome return from injury, and Louwrens Strydom newly drafted from the Sishen Rugby Club also comes in; further good news is that Wandile Putuma and André Swarts have also recovered from their injuries and could be called upon during the match.
Bergh was under no illusions about what he believed the Cheetahs intentions were for tomorrow’s match.
“The Cheetahs will come here full of confidence after beating the Pumas last week, and will believe they can also beat us. It will be important for us to win our set pieces, so as to launch our attack from there as we really struggled in the scrums against Western Province last week,” he added.
The coach also said that they had to revise their game plan for tomorrow’s encounter. “They (the Cheetahs) play at a high tempo and do not kick much, so our defence will be tested this week but it can also give us some opportunities from turnovers in their half.
“We believe we can still finish in the top six if we win both our remaining games and that is what we are working for in our last two games,” Bergh added.