Sharks charge for the line

Botha’s men need to beat un­der-strength Cheetahs to go top of Cup log

Pretoria News Weekend - - SPORT - DARRYN POL­LOCK

Dur­ban

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.

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