A cat’s ability to straighten up and land on its feet again each time it falls is well documented, but it remains to be seen whether the Sharks can do the same when they visit the Free State Cheetahs in Bloemfontein for their Currie Cup match on Saturday.
The Sharks were humiliated 20-10 by the Pumas at Kings Park last weekend and now face the undefeated Cheetahs on their home turf, with the Free Staters no doubt feeling an excellent opportunity to take control of first place on the register.
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The KwaZulu-Natalians are looking to keep Griquas and Pumas at bay in the semifinal, but right now manager Etienne Fynn just wants to see a much improved performance on his side.
“There will definitely be a reaction last week and hopefully positive,” Fynn said on Friday. “We are emotionally affected, but I expect us to get back on track.
“It’s about sticking to the plan and performing the individual role is key. It will never work if players don’t stick to the plan and this week has been a time for personal reflection and clarity.
“It stops with me as a manager, but if the players don’t come back with the answers we are looking for, then you have to react in terms of selection.
“Luckily we got positive reactions from the culprits last weekend and trained well. We will have more cohesion because 80% of the team played all the way in the Currie Cup, “said Fynn.
Steyn and Pienaar are key
As always when playing with the Cheetahs, Fynn said the key to the Sharks’ success lay in not allowing Springboks veterans Francois Steyn and Ruan Pienaar to run the game for the Free Staters.
“The Cheetahs are a very stable group, they have maintained the same combination throughout the tournament. We just have to put pressure on them, bring the heat and force those key players to make decisions.
“We have to make sure we stop their ball quality and I don’t think it ever goes beyond dominance in attack in South African rugby.
“Cheetahs certainly know how to turn the tap on and off, they manage the game well. They can play the throttle game: transform you and make you make mistakes.
“They are a stable combination at home, so it will be a tough time in Bloemfontein,” admitted Fynn.
A trendy and dynamic festival will be held in the stadium enclosure and the Cheetahs, with players as exciting as Rosko Specman and Cohen Jasper in their rear, will be looking to play rugby at festivals.
Cheetahs: Cohen Jasper, Daniel Kasende, David Brits, Francois Steyn, Rosko Specman, Siya Masuku, Ruan Pienaar (captain), Mihlali Mosi, Andisa Ntsila, Gideon van der Merwe, Victor Sekekete, Aidon Davis, Aranos Coetzee, Marnus van der Merwe, Schalk Ferreira. Bench: Cameron Dawson, Louis van der Westhuizen, Conraad van Vuuren, Ockie Barnard, Jeandrè Rudolph, Rewan Kruger, Reinhardt Fortuin, Chris Smit.
sharks: Nevaldo Fleurs, Marnus Potgieter, Jeremy Ward (captain), Murray Koster, Anthony Volmink, Boeta Chamberlain, Cameron Wright, Mpilo Gumede, Thembelani Bholi, Dylan Richardson, Hyron Andrews, Emile van Heerden, Lourens Adriaanse, Fez Mbatha, Khwezi Mona. Bench: Dan Jooste, Dian Bleuler, Blaine Golden, Le Roux Roets, Nick Hatton, Mthokozisi Mkhabela, Tito Bonilla, Ethan Fisher.