Rugby news from KwaZulu-Natal:
Preview: Free State Cheetahs vs Cell C Sharks:
The Cell C Sharks will be hoping for a repeat performance of their first match, in our week two Currie Cup clash against Free State in Bloemfontein tomorrow.
Cell C Sharks head coach Robert du Preez has warned that in a shortened competition, as well as for the team’s growth, that it is crucial to keep winning.
“For us, it’s going to be really important that we keep the momentum going. We had a solid start last weekend against the Bulls and we want to make sure we execute the opportunities that are out there.
“Accuracy on attack is vital, and having said that, what stood out for us against the Bulls was our transition from defence to attack. The work ethic and work rate was really outstanding.”
Talking momentum, the side is almost unchanged aside from the loss of Tera Mtembu to injury and this bodes well for a team that is firing.
“It’s a big challenge for us that we have so many guys in our squad who are chomping at the bit to play, some youngsters from the Under 19 side even that has had such a good season,” du Preez points out. “There are some really exciting youngsters that could easily fit into our setup and I’d have no hesitation in selecting those guys if the opportunity presented itself.
“It’s a healthy situation to be in, but at the same time we want to keep the continuity going and winning is paramount.”
Something the coach highlighted was the fact that when the Cell C Sharks play patiently and work their way into scoring opportunities, they can be very dangerous and it’s something they’re working on to good effect.
“Looking back at Super Rugby, we were one of the top four teams for line-breaks and the top offloading team in the competition, but we didn’t convert enough of those opportunities and this has been a focus of ours, it’s something we’ve been working very hard on.
“When we were patient against the Bulls, we did very well. We showed great patience in Kobus van Wyk’s try when we took it through 12 phases.”
Captain and Cell C Sharks hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle has identified this match as one where the team will be looking to be even better than their impressive performance against the Bulls last week. Although Free State will be missing their frontline players, those who step up will be looking for a good run.
“I don’t think the Cheetahs will be understrength, but what it does is present an opportunity for us as a team to excel and play to our standards, so we can maintain consistency and play as we want to, to execute the game plan,” he explains.
“Having lost both of their games means this is a desperate side, in desperate need of points, so we expect a tough encounter. But we’ll look to keep to our structure and do what we do well – to play at a high tempo and with intensity and accuracy. That’s key.”
With Vodacom Super Rugby much like a marathon and Currie Cup more of a sprint, there’s very little room for error in this competition.
“Currie Cup presents a different challenge to Super Rugby, there are only six games before the play-offs, each game is important and if you back up home wins with victories away from home, that will put the other teams under pressure. It’s almost as if every game is a final.”
Competition Time Again:
The second round of the SA Rugby Under 19 Championship kicks off for the Cell C Sharks Under 19s as they host the Eastern Province Elephants on Saturday, while the SA Rugby Under 21 Championship commences this weekend for our Cell C Sharks Under 21s when they take on the Eastern Province Kings straight after the U/19 match on KP2, at JONSSON KINGS PARK.
The Cell C Sharks Under 19s will look to build on a 52-0 first round victory over EP, but warns head coach Sean Everitt, his charges can expect much tougher opposition this time round.
“EP were well-beaten by the Lions in their first-round fixture but in the return leg last week, they turned it around and were much more competitive, so, like the rest of the teams in the competition, we are expecting improvement from EP in the second half of the competition.”
He adds that they’re looking forward to the challenge against a better EP side, “that has been strengthened by returning University players who weren’t there in the first-round match. They have also included their top schoolboys and as we know, the Eastern Cape produces very good rugby players. We’re under no false illusions as to what we need to do. But our focus is on improving, more so than on our opposition.”
Having surged to the top of the log as the halfway point of the competition, Everitt admits that the unbeaten run so far has proved to be hugely motivating for his side and they will look to continue to fulfil the goals they set for themselves at the beginning of the season.
“The three areas we highlighted were performance, improvement and enjoyment, that’s been our focus throughout,” he explains. “If we continue to improve, then the players will put themselves in line for higher honours later in their careers.”
Having beaten every other team in the competition so far, clearly this team is on the right track. But it’s not only down to ability, talent and skill, but also a philosophy that preaches team-work and brotherhood over individual glory.
“We have a good bunch of players, there is no doubt this is a talented group and we have a strong culture within the team; the players know where they are going, they respect each other, and they know that they have to perform for each other, rather than the result.
“This is a special group.”
The Under 19s play at 11am with the Under 21s getting their campaign off at 1pm.
The Cell C Sharks Under 19s
1. James Scott
2. Fez Mbatha
3. Francois Klopper
4. Lappies Labuschagne
5. JJ van der Mescht
6. Vian Fourie
7. Dylan Richardson
8. Phepsi Buthelezi (C)
9. Sanele Nohamba
10. Murray Koster
11. Asanda Kunene
12. DJ Falconer
13. Muller du Plessis
14. Caleb Dingaan
15. Thaakir Abrahams
16 Cole Haggard
17 Adriaan Staples
18 Dre Engelbrecht
19 Nachos Vidal
20 Adam Mountford
21 Matt Doyle
22 Boeta Chamberlain
23 Onke Jiba
The Cell C Sharks Under 21s
1. Jordan Els
2. Franco Botha
3. Jean-Pierre Smith
4. Dylan Weideman
5. William Squires
6. Cornelius Otto (c)
7. Jacques Ackerman
8. Marco Palvie
9. Gareth Simpson
10. Gert Cronje
11. Ilunga Mukendi
12. Khail Kotzenberg
13. James Tedder
14. Mfundo Ndhlovu
15. Courtney Winnaar
16. Matt Wiseman
17. Christiaan de Jager
18. Heinrich Brendel
19. Austin Brummer
20. Xavier Swartbooi
21. Sicelo Tole
22. Chuiner van Rooyen