Durban – The battle between two of the best hookers in the world, Bismarck du Plessis and Adriaan Strauss, will alone be worth the admission price for Saturday’s Currie Cup semi-final in Durban, and the Sharks’ coaching staff have singled out Strauss as the galvanising factor that makes the Cheetahs so dangerous.
Du Plessis and Strauss have been competing all year for the Springbok No 2 jersey and have had equal game time under Heyneke Meyer – now there will be a glittering stage for them to go head to head.
“Free State are very much an improved team now with Adriaan Strauss and Coenie Oosthuizen back from the Boks,” assistant coach Sean Everitt said.
“Adriaan is a fantastic leader and gets a lot out of the Free State team, as we saw in the Super Rugby competition. They’re a team that can’t ever be underestimated.
“They had a good game against the Blue Bulls at the weekend, and they’re certainly not the same team we beat well in Durban earlier in the competition.”
The Cheetahs conceded 50 points at Kings Park in a game that left their coach fuming that “my players did not pitch up for work”.
They were without Strauss that day, and seemed rudderless. The same thing will not happen this weekend.
Strauss’s leadership was key to the Cheetahs making the Super Rugby play-offs earlier this year, for the first time in their history, and they are a different team when he does not play.
The Sharks have their own quotient of Boks back, five of them in the pack, and while there was the odd teething problem in the set pieces against Western Province, the coaches feel the Boks made a good transition back into provincial rugby.
Everitt said that after analysing the narrow defeat to Province, the coaching staff felt there were positives than negatives.
“It wasn’t a poor performance. It was one we were actually pleased with after having had a good look at it,” the backline coach said.
“The guys were really good on defence, very committed, and overall we feel we won the collisions.
“Another area we were happy with was our kick-and-chase game. We won the territory battle overall and shaded them as far as possession is concerned.
“But unfortunately, just a couple of unforced errors here and there cost us.”