DURBAN – The Sharks and Western Province will be playing for the juicy carrot of a home semi-final in Saturday’s top-of-the-table Currie Cup clash at Newlands.
The two unbeaten teams both need just three points from the two remaining rounds to secure a home playoff, and for the Sharks it would make life much easier if they do the job tomorrow rather than have to nail those points in their final match, in Kimberley against Griquas.
The 2pm match – the only Currie Cup Premier Division clash of the weekend – is expected to be epic as both sides have won all four of their matches this season with bonus points.
“It’s all to play for. We are treating it as a quarter-final because it is that important,” Sharks coach Robert du Preez said. “Province are the form team of the competition, they are a very good attacking side and also have a good defensive record. We can’t afford to turn ball over against them.”
Just about as important as the result for the Sharks is that they build on the promising form they showed in the first half against the Lions last week, their best 40 minutes of the Currie Cup thus far. As the pool stages of the competition draw to a close, there can be no backwards step in form.
Du Preez said he is optimistic that there won’t be a repeat of the muddled second half against the Lions.
“This week we should have better cohesion in the second half with the guys that came back from injury and played off the bench against the Lions now having had game time,” he said. “We lost our structure a bit when we brought the subs on. It was also difficult because the team was playing so well at that stage, and the guys coming on were trying to do a bit extra to prove a point. Hopefully we will be better off when we bring the bench on this week.”
#OurSharks prop, @shrek3oger, has enjoyed coming into a camp where there’s a happy vibe as a result of an unbeaten streak. The @CellC Sharks will be looking to keep this record intact in their coastal derby against DHL @WP_RUGBY!#OurSharksForever #WPvSHA pic.twitter.com/hFrvwCvZvG
Du Preez has made two changes to his squad for the match. Jacques Vermeulen, who made his comeback from injury off the bench last weekend, replaces Luke Stringer in the loose trio. And with S’bu Nkosi away on Springbok duty, former Stormers and Western Province wing Leolin Zas comes on to the bench.
“Jacques was a regular until he got injured in Super Rugby and he looked really good when he came on last week, and we are giving him a start against his old team ... that will really motivate him,” Du Preez explained.
”Leolin is another WP boy. It is great to have him back in the mix. It has been a tough road for him coming back from a horrific injury at the beginning of last year.”
“Luke has fitted in really well after joining us from Province, we are pleased with the way he has performed, so there is going to be a big tussle in the loose forwards going forward,” Du Preez added. “We will also have Jean-Luc (du Preez) back from injury in two to three weeks time.”
Referee: Ben Crouse
The Sharks team is:
15 Curwin Bosch, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Jeremy Ward, 12 Marius Louw, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Dan du Preez, 7 Tyler Paul, 6 Jacques Vermeulen, 5 Hyron Andrews, 4 Gideon Koegelenberg, 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle (c), 1 Juan Schoeman.
Subs: 16 Akker van der Merwe, 17 Coenie Oosthuizen, 18 Ruben van Heerden, 19 Luke Stringer, 20 Cameron Wright, 21 Leolin Zas, 22 Aphelele Fassi.
The Western Province team is:
15 Dillyn Leyds, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Ruhan Nel, 12 Dan Kriel, 11 SP Marais, 10 Josh Stander, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Juarno Augustus, 7 Ernst van Rhyn, 6 Kobus van Dyk, 5 JD Schickerling, 4 Chris van Zyl (c), 3 Michael Kumbirai, 2 Scarra Ntubeni, 1 Ali Vermaak.
Subs: 16 Chad Solomon, 17 Caylib Oosthuizen, 18 Carlu Sadie, 19 Salmaan Moerat, 20 Cris Massyn, 21 Herschel Jantjies, 22 JJ Engelbrecht.
Western Province have scored 27 tries in the Currie Cup to the 17 of the Sharks, while the teams have been closely matched on defence with the Capetonians conceding 78 points and their counterparts 72.