Sharks charge for the line
Botha’s men need to beat under-strength Cheetahs to go top of Cup log
HAVING felt exactly what it is like to have their resources spread over two competitions, the Sharks have said they won’t be disrespecting the Cheetahs in today’s Currie Cup clash at Kings Park (4.15pm).
At the beginning of the Currie Cup it was the Sharks who were welcomed to Bloemfontein with their top players a little further up the road in Johannesburg, contesting a Super Rugby quarter-final.
The result was an absolute hammering as the defending champions, with their near Super Rugby line-up, took apart the ‘B side’ Sharks 47-12.
It is a total role reversal today as the Cheetahs are in Durban with a hugely inexperienced squad as their 28 best players are in Ireland this very weekend, breaking ground in an historic PRO14 match against Ulster.
This is a top-of-the-table clash, and in years gone by, a Currie Cup game of this magnitude would be the talk of the town. But, unfortunately, the Cup has been stripped of all its prestige by the powers-that-be.
Poor scheduling from Saru has seen the Lions face this same dilemma of two competitions running simultaneously, but over three weeks as they reached the final. It has also cost the Sharks a chance at being undefeated, with that first game a total write off.
And now, the actions of Sanzaar, going back on their Super Rugby expansion, has not only necessitated a massive move for the Cheetahs, but also subversively damaged the Currie Cup further.
Nevertheless, the game will go on, with the Sharks the clear favourites, although coach Robert du Preez is not being lulled into believing it’ll be a cakewalk.
“First and foremost, we will not disrespect the Cheetahs, whatever team they put on the park,” Du Preez said earnestly.
“That is important, and secondly we must concentrate on what we must do to improve our game and consolidate momentum. We must look after ourselves because we have so much to improve on. We have to improve our patience in our 22, an area of ongoing concern all season. We continue to cre- ate a lot of opportunities which we do not convert, so that is very important for us.”
Captain Ruan Botha is also focusing on his own team’s game, rather than what the opposition can offer. But he admits that the Sharks are in a good place because of their recent run of five wins on the trot.
“Winning a few games in a row makes it a lot easier, and the guys are starting to believe that a home semi, and a home final, is in sight,” Botha said.
“We are still taking each game step by step, but like the coach says, we don’t want to underestimate the Cheetahs; it does not matter what side they send, we are out there to play our game.”
The Sharks have made a few changes – most of them necessary as College Rovers flyer Tythan Adams gets a shot with Kobus van Wyk and Odwa Ndungane injured.
In the forwards there is a new-look front row as Ross Geldenhuys is rested, Akker van der Merwe is given a chance to start, and Thomas du Toit returns from injury. Keegan Daniel is also back from injury which sees Tyler Paul back in at lock for Jean Droste.