Jeremy Ward says there is excitement among the team. Photo: Steve Haag
Excitement reigns in the youthful Sharks team that tackles the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein this evening in a Currie Cup semi-final, reckons co-captain Jeremy Ward.

“The players throughout this week have understood the privilege of playing in a Currie Cup semi-final, and for the younger guys coming through it is a big moment for them,” said centre Ward, who at 23 is hardly a veteran himself. “They are really excited and it is important we use that excitement in a positive way.”

Ward says there is no chance of the occasion getting too big for the six players in the team that are still under 21 because the Sharks have been living with pressure for most of their campaign after having dropped games early on to Griquas and the Pumas. In terms of qualifying for the semi-finals, the Sharks have been in sudden death mode for the last month.

“In a sense we have come off the back of three knock-out games in a row, the wins over the Cheetahs, Lions and Bulls,” Ward said. “We knew how high the stakes were in those three games, so we will be using the experience of those games in the semi-final.”

Ward has spent much of the season in the No12 jersey but has now moved to 13 because of the return of André Esterhuizen from Springbok duty. Ward says he is equally comfortable in the two midfield positions.

“André is a Springbok, it is really good to have him back.

“He brings so much to the backline... experience, leadership and a calm head. I really enjoy playing both inside and outside centre. It makes no difference to me.”

Ward has gained fame as tough tackler and in tandem with the destructive Esterhuizen, the Sharks have a formidable defensive wall in the midfield, and it will certainly be tested.

“The Cheetahs play a really good brand of rugby. They are a team that loves to keep the ball,” Ward said. “Our defence has not been up to scratch the last few weeks so we have focused heavily on it this week.

“If we get our defence right, we know opportunities will come our way. Also the way they have been playing by stacking their bench with good players means the last 20 or 30 minutes is going to be very tough. We are going to have to be switched on ... our bench will have a huge role to play. If we can match up in those regards we will hopefully come back to Durban with a positive result."

Sharks - 15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Jeremy Ward (c-c), 12 André Esterhuizen, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Sanele Nohamba, 8 Tera Mtembu (c-c), 7 Jacques Vermeulen, 6 Phepsi Buthelezi, 5 Hyron Andrews, 4 Ruben van Heerden, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Kerron van Vuuren, 1 Thomas du Toit. Subs: 16 Dylan Richardson, 17 Mzamo Majola, 18 John-Hubert Meyer, 19 Gideon Koegelenberg, 20 Andisa Ntsila, 21 Cameron Wright, 22 Rhyno Smith, 23 JP Pietersen.

@MikeGreenaway67


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