Rugby news from KwaZulu-Natal:
Preview: Cell C Sharks vs Golden Lions:
The Cell C Sharks will have played our third match in eight days when we take on the Golden Lions at Emirates Airline Park in a tough Currie Cup derby match on Saturday, looking to end this tough run on a high.
After wins against Griquas last Saturday and the Bulls on Wednesday, we jumped into second spot on the log, but consistently winning games is the all-important aim if we are do well in the competition this year.
With three wins from four matches, the Cell C Sharks are enjoying a good run of form and will look to carry that form through to the Lions match.
The home side have a new coach and new players, with Super Rugby assistant coach Swys de Bruin takes over as head coach from Johan Ackermann who has left the Union to join up with Gloucester.
They will be the shadow of their Super Rugby Final team due to the unavailability of a number of their players.
Kwagga Smith is out serving a four week ban for dangerous tackling in the Super Rugby final while seven of their players are with the Boks and amongst other departures, Lionel Mapoe is off to Japan, while Akker van Der Merwe will be playing – but for the Cell C Sharks – against his former team having moved to Durban after the Super Rugby final.
As mentioned above, we are in second spot on the Currie Cup log while the Lions are in fifth position with one win from three – although they have been contesting the knock-out rounds of Super Rugby which meant their focus was not on the Currie Cup.
Cell C Sharks captain Ruan Botha admitted that our team would be taking confidence from the Bulls game into Saturday’s clash with the Lions.
“We have a two part mission for this week and part one has been successful, the Bulls game is behind us now and it’s great to have the five points, it helps us build momentum for Saturday’s game,” he explained.”
One area of concern outlined by head coach Robert du Preez was the side’s exits from their 22 which he felt weren’t quite where they would like them to be and Botha agreed that it was something they would work on before taking on the Lions.
“We have to work on our exits, although we don’t have a lot of time, and besides that, to make sure our discipline is better.”
The Cell C Sharks set-piece functioned well and they were able to put pressure on the Blue Bulls, something they will consistently look to do.
“It’s always a positive when your lineout functions well and it’s good to put your opponents under pressure. We know the Lions aren’t going to be walk-overs when it comes to the set-phases, but we are looking forward to the challenge.”
The game will be won and lost in a number of areas, as he pointed out.
“The game starts upfront with the forwards and if we front up, then it’s up to the backs to play what’s in front of them,” he explained. “Discipline can win or lose you games, we have a target and against the Bulls we went over that mark, so we’ll look to keep the count low against the Lions.
“We mentally prepared ourselves for this three match challenge, it isn’t easy playing three games in eight days, but we looked forward to the challenge and every moment spent on the pitch.”
Growing Our Game:
Despite just a four-day turnaround between Currie Cup games against the Blue Bulls on Wednesday and the Lions on Saturday, head coach Robert du Preez has largely stuck with the same team that did such outstanding duty against the Bulls.
The forward pack, hugely dominant and called upon for more of the same against the Lions on Saturday, remains unchanged, while there are some changes in the backline.
A new halfback pairing featuring Cameron Wright at scrumhalf and Benhard Janse van Rensburg at 10 has been chosen, with Marius Louw coming in at centre to replace Jeremy Ward who wasn’t considered for selection due to laceration.
Odwa Ndungane who is playing his 100th Currie Cup game for the Cell C Sharks, comes in for Kobus van Wyk (who ties the knot this weekend) on the wing in the final change to the starting line-up.
There is a new face featuring on the bench, former Kings scrumhalf Louis Schreuder is named as replacement scrumhalf and will his debut for the Cell C Sharks.
A fantastic defensive effort last night will once more be required against the Lions, and although it wasn’t perfect, it was certainly the difference between the two sides.
“I’m proud of the boys and the guts they showed against the Blue Bulls,” said coach Robert du Preez. “We did miss 40-odd tackles which wasn’t great, but that started with our bad exits and something we’re going to have to work hard on.”
He was also pleased with our attack which delivered the all-important bonus point, a rare occurrence against the Bulls – at Loftus.
“I thought we played really good rugby at times, just one or two offloads here and there that didn’t go to hand, but certainly I’m very pleased with our intent on attack.
“And I’m very happy with the four tries, it’s something we battled with in Super Rugby, I’m happy with where we are at this stage.”
Casting his mind to the Lions, did he believe there is revenge on the players minds following the Super Rugby quarter-final loss?
“No, it’s not a big grudge match for us, we just want to build on the momentum that we’ve created, it’s a new game and history means nothing. It’s tough playing there but we’re up for it and looking forward to the challenge.”
The goal to disrupt the Blue Bulls set-piece was achieved and something we will look to be competitive in during the entire season. The forwards are gelling well and playing some courageous rugby which should bode well against the Super Rugby finalists.
“But we must improve our exit plays, those weren’t good enough and that put us under pressure. And we missed too many tackles, so that’s also a big focus of ours ahead of the match.”
|The Cell C Sharks
||Replacements (Not yet confirmed)
|1||Thomas du Toit||–||Akker van der Merwe|
|2||Franco Marais||–||Inny Radebe|
|3||Ross Geldenhuys||–||Juan Schoeman|
|4||Tyler Paul||–||John-Hubert Meyer|
|5||Ruan Botha (Captain)||–||Jean Droste|
|6||Keegan Daniel||–||Louis Schreuder|
|7||Jacques Vermeulen||–||Michael Claassens|
|8||Tera Mtembu||–||Mzamo Majola|
|9||Cameron Wright||–||Wian Vosloo|
|10||Benhard Janse van Rensburg|