Currie Cup / 3 August 2019, 11:30am / mike greenaway
To give context to this afternoon’s Currie Cup clash between the Pumas and the Sharks in Nelspruit, 3pm, Sharks captain Tera Mtembu points out that in his last three matches against the Mpumalanga team, he has lost each time.
That is including SuperSport Challenge matches, of course, the second tier competition that runs concurrently to Super Rugby, but then the Currie Cup is hardly Super Rugby!
“It is never easy playing up there, I have personally lost three games in Nelspruit, but we are excited for the weekend because we have planned and prepped well,” said Mtembu, who co-leads the Sharks with centre Jeremy Ward.
However, that was also the refrain before the Sharks opened their Currie Cup account, against the Griquas team that the Pumas played in the final of the SuperSport Challenge, and Mtembu takes that on the chin.
“There was a lot of excitement leading up to the Currie Cup. We had a lot of energy, and effort is part of our DNA, but none of those things came to pass against Griquas, so we had some harsh words on the Monday after that game.
“I think we are now on the right track,” Mtembu continued. “In our next game we played well against Western Province but we are not there yet so we are staying grounded and will stick to our campaign goals of improvement and growth.”
The Sharks enter this encounter under pressure to win given they are fifth after two games (and three rounds of the competition).
The Pumas have lost all three of their matches so far and need to win all of their remaining games with bonus points to salvage any hope of a possible place in the top four, while the KwaZulu-Natalians have won one of their two games and will be determined to build momentum after coming off a bye.
Should the Pumas earn their first win of the season, it would mark their first victory against the Sharks since 2015. But they will have to step up their defence significantly to achieve this after conceding 100 points in the last three matches.
The Pumas named the same starting team that faced the Blue Bulls last week, while the only change to the Sharks’ starting XV is the inclusion of Junior Springbok captain Phendulani Buthelezi on the side of the scrum, which has seen Jacques Vermeulen being included among the replacements.
Pumas - 15 Devon Williams, 14 Morne Joubert, 13 Ryan Nell (capt), 12 Henko Marais, 11 Etienne Taljaard, 10 Christ Smith, 9 Ashlon Davids, 8 Jeandre Rudolph, 7 Willie Engelbrecht, 6 Francois Kleinhans, 5 Stefan Willemse, 4 Le Roux Roets, 3 Marne Coetzee, 2 Marko Janse van Rensburg, 1 Andrew Beerwinkel. Replacements: 16 Simon Westraadt, 17 De-Jay Terblanche, 18 Hilton Lobberts, 19 Phumzile Maqondwana, 20 Ginter Smuts, 21 Kobus Marais, 22 Alwayno Visagie, 23 Morgan Naude.
Sharks - 15 Rhyno Smith, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 JP Pietersen, 12 Jeremy Ward (co-captain), 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Cameron Wright, 8 Tera Mtembu (co-captain), 7 Phendulani Buthelezi, 6 Luke Stringer, 5 Hyron Andrews, 4 Ruben van Heerden, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Kerron van Vuuren, 1 Juan Schoeman. Replacements: 16 Craig Burden, 17 Mzamo Majola, 18 John-Hubert Meyer, 19 Gideon Koegelenberg, 20 Jacques Vermeulen, 21 Sanele Nohamba, 22 Marius Louw, 23 Aphelele Fassi.