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Xerox Golden Lions 10 10 48
Vodacom Blue Bulls 10 8 39
DHL Western Province 10 7 35
Toyota Free State Cheetahs 10 3 24
Cell C Sharks 10 4 22
Steval Pumas 10 3 17
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ORC Griquas 10 1 8
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ABSA Currie Cup Preview – Round 6


Written by Rob Otto (robdylan)

Posted in :Cheetahs, Currie Cup, Original Content, Sharks on 11 Sep 2014 at 12:50
Tagged with : , , , , , , , , , ,

This week, we’ll take an in-depth look at Saturday’s upcoming clash between the Cheetahs and the Sharks, while also making predictions about the other Currie Cup games to be played.

Cheetahs v Sharks – 3pm Saturday in Bloemfontein

These teams played out to a dour almost-draw when they met in Durban three weeks ago, with Fred Zeilinga landing a late penalty to edge his side ahead. That game, as it turns out, was the last one that the Sharks have won, with successive defeats to the Pumas and Griquas throwing their campaign into turmoil. A win, for them, is non-negotiable, while the same can be said for the Cheetahs, who are currently below the Sharks and out of the semi-final picture. You fancy that whichever side loses here is in big trouble, with far tougher opposition to come in the closing month.

Let’s look at some key aspects:

The scrum battle
It’s hear that you’d fancy the Sharks to have the upper hand, based on a good (if unfairly penalised) showing last week and the reuniting of a front row unit that consistently did well as replacements in Super Rugby. The loss of Wiehan Hay and the usage of two lighter locks might lessen the impact a bit, but it would be very disappointing if scrums and lineouts don’t end up going the Sharks’ way. Stuart Berry should be more sympathetic than Lourens van der Merwe was last week, so I’m positive about this phase and the Sharks’ prospects therein. The Cheetahs are bolstered by the return of Caylib Oosthuizem, a good young prop, but do lack depth in the tight five and as such the Sharks must target the tighter exchanges as an area in which they can establish dominance.

The breakdown
This could go either way. Against Griquas, the Sharks didn’t protect their ball at all well leading to plenty of pressure on the halfbacks. With the Cheetahs also good at spoiling, the breakdown has to loom large as a major danger area and one on which the Sharks would do well to concentrate. Dale Chadwick will add good impetus as a fast support player with high work rate and the challenge will be for the other forwards to match his contribution here.

Controlling the game
It’s here that the Sharks face their biggest challenge; while the Cheetahs’ Wiilie du Plessis will need to play better than he did last time out, Sarel Pretorius is a master at pulling the strings and will look to quickly get on top of any hesitation from opposite number Conrad Hoffmann. With a new man at flyhalf in Lionel Cronje, there’s a really big question mark over the Sharks this week from a decision-making and game-control point of view. Of the four halfbacks picked, Pretorius is the only star and a lot will depend on how well the Sharks contain him; the challenge, though, is to ensure that they themselves dictate matters, rather than simple focusing on countering the opposition’s key playmaker.

Creating and taking chances
Both teams start out on the back foot, simply due to wholesale backline changes. The Sharks appear to have the stronger individuals, but form and cohesion has been a season-long problem. The Cheetahs have lost a huge amount of “strike threat” with the loss of Raymond Rhule and Tonderai Chavhanga needs to use his experience to get the better of debutant Maphutha Dolo, while changes at fullback for both teams see the selection of exciting runners, rather than big-booted up-and-under merchants. Aimless kicks, from either side, are likely to be punished. A very difficult contest to predict, all in all, due mainly to the fact that both sides have been very poor and can only really get better – or can they?

Prediction
Taking all the above factors into account, the Sharks could edge this encounter and probably should be expected to do so, given the guns in their arsenal. They’ve played well below their paper potential to date, though and will require and immediate and substantial improvement in order to emerge with the points. We’re backing them to win an ugly game, with the pack standing up to provide the platform for Lionel Cronje to kick the necessary points. Back on a coupe of tries; perhaps one form a rolling maul and another long-range effort involving Tim Swiel and Chavhanga. Sharks to win by 5 points.

Cheetahs: 15 Rayno Benjamin, 14 Maphutha Dolo, 13 Francois Venter, 12 Joubert Engelbrecht, 11 JP du Plessis, 10 Willie Du Plessis, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Pieter Labuschagne, 7 Neil Claassen, 6 Tienie Burger, 5 Francois Uys, 4 Henco Venter, 3 George Marich, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld (captain), 1 Caylib Oosthuizen.
Replacements: 16 Abraham le Roux, 17 Rudolph Botha, 18 Werner Lourens, 19 Vincent Jobo, 20 Shaun Venter, 21 Pieter-Steyn de Wet, 22 AJ Coertzen.

Sharks: 15 Tim Swiel, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 S’bura Sithole, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Tonderai Chavhanga, 10 Lionel Cronje, 9 Conrad Hoffmann, 8 Tera Mtembu (capt), 7 Etienne Oosthuizen, 6 Jacques Botes, 5 Stephan Lewies, 4 Marco Wentzel, 3 Lourens Adriaanse, 2 Kyle Cooper, 1 Dale Chadwick.
Reserves: 16 Monde Hadebe, 17 Thomas du Toit, 18 Johan Meyer, 19 Khaya Majola, 20 Cameron Wright, 21 Fred Zeilinga, 22 SP Marais.

In other games, we expect an unprecedented return of three more away victories. The Blue Bulls should edge the Kings, by only a point or two, while the Pumas will account for an uninspiring Griquas team with some ease. The big game of the weekend should see in-form Western Province see off an injury depleted Lions outfit who are on a bit of a downward spiral after a promising start to the season.



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