DURBAN – The Sharks last week won crucial Currie Cup games away against the Bulls and the Lions but can they make it a hat-trick away from home today when they are hosted by a Western Province team on the rise?
The Capetonians will be targeting this match big time after having had a slow start to the competition and they have come good of late in winning two games in the last fortnight to inch themselves up the ladder.
But they are going to encounter a Sharks team hell-bent on winning their fifth game in a row and consolidating their challenge to finish top of the Currie Cup log, with its attendant privileges such as home play-off games.
The match has added importance for the Sharks given that they will want to continue their winning momentum going into the game against the Cheetahs at Kings Park next week.
The Sharks are well placed indeed on the overall log given their recent wins away from home against some of the Big Boys, but Province are the side they still have to battle and are desperate to win.
The depleted Sharks lost in the first round in Bloemfontein to the Cheetahs and they will be determined to pull off another double-header in beating Province and the Cheetahs.
It is shaping up to be a crunch game today.
The home side want to climb the ladder and certainly do not want to drop a home game, while the Sharks can make it five out of five and go top of the ladder, with morale and confidence high ahead of the match against the Cheetahs, a side that are hell-bent on winning games before their first choice-team moves onto the Top 14 (now Top 16) and leaving a platform for Cheetahs remaining in South Africa to battle against the best of the Currie Cup.
The Cheetahs take on a Golden Lions side far from being at full-strength, with up to 19 first choice players missing. That match, in Bloemfiontein, kicks off at 5.15pm.
According to reports from the Cape, Western Province captain Chris van Zyl says this match will gauge just how strong the Cape team is in the local competition.
“Our focus is not to get complacent and to stick to what’s worked for us. We’re playing a good brand of rugby, so we must just continue to do that,” Van Zyl said in reference to his team’s 39-3 win over the rebuilding Lions.
But Van Zyl also said that sound plans had been put in place to combat the Sharks’ stout defence.
“We have come up with a plan that everyone has bought into. We feel that they are the most complete outfit in the Currie Cup, so it’s going to be a good test for us.
“I think they will come hard at us to get a valuable away win, but I believe we’ve got the skill and the structure to cope with the challenge and win the game,” the skipper said.
“I think they are targeting us and there’s no way of shying away from it, so we’ve got to stand up to it. And if we want to win this competition we’re going to have to beat the best, and I think they are the best,” the lock said.