Currie Cup

Sharks under pressure to win at home

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It can never be a revenge match, with the defending champions Sharks and last year’s Currie Cup losing finalists Blue Bulls both playing without their Springboks, but the match in Durban on Friday is sure to test the Blue Bulls who are also without some of their leading other players and top replacements.

The Blue Bulls also miss flanker Deon Stegmann, who is still struggling with an ankle injury. Pedrie Wannenburg, who has a lung injury, Akona Ndungane (shin splints), John Mametsa (knee) and Burton Francis (general conditioning), are also on the Pretoria team’s injury list and have not been selected for the Sharks match.

They will be full of confidence after their good win against Western Province last weekend — and their woes in the scrums, they feel, are something of the past.

Former Sharks forward coach Balie Swart lent a helping hand at Loftus this week, and as coach Frans Ludeke said afterwards, “He worked on a few technical things only. We’re confident we’ll be better on Saturday.”

The Blue Bulls are happy that centre Wynand Olivier has been called uip for national duty, but that leaves them with a new centre pairing where Under-21 star Stefan Watermeyer will partner Springbok and former Bok Sevens captain Jaco Pretorius.

The Sharks were good but not impressive in their 46-10 win over the Boland Kavaliers last weekend. They will have to be at their very best if the Blue Bulls play anything like they did against Western Province where they had a possession problem that stemmed from their scrum struggles. It could be a very good match – and the pressure is on the Sharks, who are at home, to win.

A victory in Durban will be one the Bulls would cherish in their quest to take as many away wins as possible. They fully realise that’s what the race to play-offs is about.

— The heat is on the Free State Cheetahs, who have no log points after two matches and play Western Province at Newlands on Friday night. Coach Naka Drotske has a good backline, and strentghened it with the inclusion of Lionel Mapoe on the wing in place of Springbok speedster Jongi Nokwe.

Mapoe’s solid play under the high ball with Western Province expected to make ample use of Willem de Waal’s boot, swung it his way. He is also better on defence than Nokwe.

Western Province, at home where they beat the Sharks, dare not lose this match. They will hope the changes at the back will bring a much-needed win, and will rely heavily on their pack that did so well against the Blue Bulls last weekend and the boot of De Waal.

A betting man would put his money on the Newlands home team.

— The depth of the Lions, in Phokeng against the Leopards, will be severely tested by the newcomers to the top division. The Lions have lost a number of players, but even with the changes have a fair measure of experience where it counts.

Coach Hans Coetzee will be especially interested to see how Earl Rose goes at flyhalf with the distribution by Herkie Kruger last week against the Cheetahs not good enough to get his backs moving effectively.

— Log-leaders Griquas will have to improve on last weekend’s hesitant performance against the Leopards if they want to ensure a third win in Kimberley on Saturday where they face the Boland Kavaliers who are yet to record a victory in the competition.

“We need to keep our feet firmly on the ground and focus on the Kavaliers, and nothing else,” said Griquas coach Dawie Theron.

“While we are the current log-leaders, we must remember that we’ve only played two matches. All I can hope for is that we continue the momentum further into the competition.

This is a home game and nobody can afford to lose their home matches.”

His team’s good pack and better backs should nevertheless see Griquas through to a third win.

Fixtures (home teams first):

Friday:

Premier Division:

Sharks v Blue Bulls, 6pm;
WP v Cheetahs, 7pm.

First Division:

SWD Eagles v Griffons, 7pm.

Saturday:

Premier Division:

Griquas v Kavaliers, 2.30pm;
Leopards v Lions, 3pm.

First Division:

EP Mighty Elephants v Pumas.

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