Rugby news from KwaZulu-Natal:
Call for Action:
The Cell C Sharks will mount one last fight before the semis, in the battle for Currie Cup honours when we travel to Tafel Lager Park in Kimberley on Saturday for a 3pm showdown with Griquas.
Head coach Robert du Preez has made a number of changes to the team that played Western Province two weeks’ ago, with a new captain in scrumhalf Louis Schreuder as season captain Chiliboy Ralepelle swaps with Akker van der Merwe, handling the latter a start.
Also in the front row, and the only other change amongst the forwards, Coenie Oosthuizen comes in for Thomas du Toit for a straight rotational swap.
Curwin Bosch has been handed a start at flyhalf, with Robert du Preez shifting to centre in place of Marius Louw who will no doubt cause mayhem for the opposition when he comes off the bench in the second half. There is a welcome return for Sbu Nkosi after being called up for the Springbok squad ahead of their final game against the All Blacks, and he will be raring to go. In the final change, Aphelele Fassi takes over Bosch’s place in the vacated fullback position.
There are two notable inclusions on an exciting and experienced bench, Under 19 lock JJ van der Mescht has been named, with Jean-Luc du Preez returning from injury at the most opportune time.
This final week’s action will see the permutations for the semi-finals being finalised, but right now, there is no guarantee for any of the top five teams. As far as a place in the semis goes. Province need just two points from their match against the Blue Bulls to remain in top spot. The Cell C Sharks could leap-frog the men from Cape Town should we gain a bonus point victory and Province are denied any log points.
However, the Bulls could usurp the Cell C Sharks should they win and we lose, so a home semi-final is the carrot at the end of their stick as much as it is ours.
Which all makes for an exciting finale to the pool stages of the competition!
The Cell C Sharks
- Juan Schoeman
- Akker van der Merwe
- Coenie Oosthuizen
- Gideon Koegelenberg
- Hyron Andrews
- Jacques Vermeulen
- Tyler Paul
- Daniel du Preez
- Louis Schreuder (C)
- Curwin Bosch
- Lwazi Mvovo
- Robert du Preez
- Jeremy Ward
- Sbu Nkosi
- Aphelele Fassi
- Chiliboy Ralepelle
- Thomas du Toit
- JJ van der Mescht
- Jean-Luc du Preez
- Grant Williams
- Marius Louw
- Kobus van Wyk
The Final Challenge:
One game remains in the pool stages of the Currie Cup competition before the play-offs, and for the Cell C Sharks, nothing less than victory will suffice as we look to build momentum before the semi-finals.
A loss to Western Province in the last game – two weeks ago – was not the result the team, unbeaten at that stage, was hoping for. Although it was a hiccup, this weekend’s match against Griquas presents the opportunity of finishing the qualifying stages on a high and get some momentum going for next weekend’s semis.
“It hurt us, losing to Province,” explains Cell C Sharks back Lwazi Mvovo. “But we did train through the bye week and we did a lot of team building and now we’re ready to take on the Griquas.
“We gave away too much possession in that game and you just can’t afford that. A couple of their tries came off our mistakes, passes not sticking, so going forward our focus is on holding on to the ball and building phases, because when we do, we end up scoring tries.”
Mvovo acknowledges that there can be no more speedbumps, although Griquas are no easy beats and victory is not assured.
“We’re at the business end of the competition; Griquas in Kimberley is never easy, but our preparation has been great and the guys are excited and looking forward to the challenge.
“Although you don’t want to get to the play-offs having lost games, but perhaps the loss to Province was a blessing in disguise. We thought everything was fine but that game in Cape Town showed things aren’t perfect. We’ve fixed the mistakes; in this competition you can’t give away possession and expect to win.”
This weekend will be all about implementing the corrective training sessions following the Province game.
“It’s important to be calm and stick to the game plan, hold on to possession, maintain good defensive structure and hopefully it will all turn out right for us,” he explains. “This team has grown, the youngsters have gained a lot of experience and we’re excited for where this competition can take us.”
Mvovo expects Griquas to come out roaring as they look to finish their season on a high.
“Griquas have nothing to lose in their last game of the year, so we expect them to throw the kitchen sink at us. Beating the Sharks would probably be the highlight of their season. So know what to expect from them and we also know what’s at stake for us.”
On a personal level, although he has vast experience of playing at this – and a higher – level, the excitement nevertheless remains and the competition loses none of its gloss.
“I’ve won the Currie Cup with The Sharks a couple of times and it’s not only about the team, but also the guys behind the scenes, it means a lot to the whole union. For us, that’s the focus – to win the Currie Cup. For us, the team behind the team and the fans.”
The responsibility on his shoulders, as a senior player isn’t lost on him, but he acknowledges the role he has to play.
“And not just me, all the senior players: we set the example for the youngsters and the continuation of the culture of the Sharks. When we were youngsters, we had the likes of Odwa Ndungane and Stefan Terblanche driving the culture, acting as our role-models. They showed us the ropes and it was important that we were willing to learn from them.
“The youngsters in our team are keen to learn and they want to compete for positions in the team. There are no guarantees about selection, that’s important.”