Preview: Sharks v Cheetahs

Date published: July 8 2016

The Sharks will need to evade their historical banana peel, the Cheetahs, if they want to keep their Super Rugby fate in their own hands.

The Sharks have had a mixed bag of a season so far with some great performances in the beginning before a mid-competition slump. Just before the international break were looking like contenders once again.

But they were destroyed by the Lions last weekend, 37-10, and will be looking for vast improvements as they try and re-find their form.

The Durban side need this victory to remain as the third team going to the quarter-finals from the Africa group. They have the Bulls hot on their tails, with the men from Pretoria hosting the Sunwolves before heading to the Cheetahs.

The Cheetahs sit in the middle of the table with the Jaguares three points behind them. They will want to finish above the South Americans to show they are seasoned Super Rugby attendees and not succumb to the Argentines in their first season.

The Sharks have been plagued by injuries towards the business end of the competition. They lost captain and arguably their star player Patrick Lambie during the Springbok Test series against Ireland.

To add to their woes Willie le Roux was also injured and now gifted centre Paul Jordaan has also been ruled out.

It will be the battle of defence versus attack when two sides meet. The Sharks have one of the best defensive records in the competition as have let in the second least tries in the competition while the Cheetahs have one of the best attacking records with 43 tries scored this season.

This could make for an interesting bout.

The last time the teams met: The Sharks won 27-10 in Bloemfontein after a brace of tries scored by Marcell Coetzee sealed a big win over their South African peers. Coetzee was joined on the scoresheet by centre Francois Steyn and wing Jack Wilson. Coetzee scored in the 29th minute and then again on the 32nd minute as the away side went into the break leading 22-3. The only Cheetahs try came through Francois Venter later on in the game but was a consolation try.

Players to watch: Springbok speedster Lwazi Mvovo is always a man to watch. The Sharks number 11 did not have a great series with the Springboks but he had a balanced performance against the Lions as he made five tackles, broke the line three times, beat four defenders while also scoring a try. The Cheetahs defence will have to be solid out wide to stop this man from getting over the try line. Hooker Franco Marais also had a great game. He pulverised the Lions defensive line and matched their forwards intensity, not an easy feat. He made 11 tackles on the day proving he is one for the future.

Loose forwards Uzair Cassiem and Paul Schoeman have had great seasons so far. Cassiem has been playing out of his skin lately and seems to be picking up a lot of momentum late in the season. Last weekend he scored a fantastic try, as he pierced the line with ease. He also asserted his dominance on the opposition as he made 11 tackles. Schoeman was superhero-esque last weekend. He made an incredible 16 tackles against the Force, as well breaking the line twice and beating two defenders while bagging himself a try. The Sharks will do well to prepare for the physicality of the big number eight.

Team news: Former Kings scrum-half Shaun Venter will start in the nine jersey, while Tian Meyer drops to the bench. The only other change is Charles Marais taking Luan de Bruin's spot as a replacement prop. 

Gold's changes were predominantly in the back-line as the only tweak in the forward pack is that Coenie Oostuizen starts ahead of Lourens Adriaanse at tighthead prop. In the back-line utility-back Rhyno Smith will get his Super Rugby debut as he replaces Odwa Ndungane at full-back. Andre Esterhuizen will play inside centre as he replaces the injured Paul Jordaan who failed a fitness test late in the week. South African Junior Championship star Curwin Bosch will provide back-line cover from the bench.

Form: The Sharks are coming off a pretty fair run as they have won three games out of their last five. One of those wins was 32-15 over the Hurricanes where the Sharks played their best rugby all season. They also dismantled the Kings 52-0 in Durban, and although the competition was not the strongest they played some fantastic rugby. They took a beating at the hands of the Lions last weekend when they lost 37-10 in Johannesburg. They were completely outclassed by a determined and well drilled outfit. 

The Cheetahs have won two out of their last five matches, and have been fairly pedestrian all season. Two unconvincing wins against the Kings and the Force, who probably should have won after the Cheetahs' structures collapsed in the second half, doesn’t add much evidence for their case of a successful season.

Prediction: The Sharks may be injury hit but this team still has some bite. Sharks by 12 points.

Previous results:

2015: Sharks won 27-10 in Bloemfontein
2015: Cheetahs won 35-29 in Durban
2014: Cheetahs won 27-20 in Bloemfontein
2014: Sharks won 19-8 in Durban
2013: Cheetahs won 12-6 in Durban
2013: Sharks won 29-22 in Bloemfontein
2012: Sharks won 34-15 in Durban
2012: Sharks won 34-20 in Bloemfontein 

The teams:

Sharks: 15 Ryhno Smith, 14 S’bura Sithole, 13 JP Pietersen, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Garth April, 9 Michael Claassens, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Keegan Daniel, 5 Stephan Lewies, 4 Etienne Oosthuizen, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Franco Marais, 1 Tendai Mtawarira
Replacements: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 Thomas du Toit, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 Ruan Botha, 20 Tera Mtembu, 21 Stefan Ungerer, 22 Heimar Williams, 23 Curwin Bosch

Cheetahs: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Francois Venter (C), 12 Michael van der Spuy, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Fred Zeilinga,9 Shaun Venter, 8 Paul Schoeman, 7 Oupa Mohoje, 6 Uzair Cassiem, 5 Francois Uys, 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Maks van Dyk, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 Ox Nche
Replacements: 16 Joseph Dweba, 17 Charles Marais, 18 Johan Coetzee, 19 Reniel Hugo, 20 Henco Venter, 21 Tian Meyer, 22 George Whitehead, 23 William Small-Smith

Date: Saturday, July 9
Venue: Growthpoint Kings Park, Durban
Kick-off: 19:15 local (17:15 GMT)
Referee: Stuart Berry
Assistant Referees: Rasta Rasivhenge, Archie Sehlako
TMO: Shaun Veldsman