Western Province face the Sharks in a Currie Cup match at Newlands on Saturday having already secured top spot in the standings.
A much-changed Western Province side takes on the Sharks in a Currie Cup match at Newlands on Saturday having already secured top spot in the standings.
Allister Coetzee’s outfit has been the undoubted form domestic side so far this season and thoroughly deserve their unassailable lead at the top of the standings and the home semi-final that comes with that feat.
While the Sharks were poor at the start of the season by their standards, they seem to be hitting form at the right time of the year and have an outside chance of securing a home semi of their own if some other results go their way.
The Natalians trail the second placed Lions by two points and will know whether or not a semi-final berth is still on offer before the match, since the match at Ellis Park against the Cheetahs kicks off two hours earlier.
Should the Lions lose with no more than one bonus point, a victory of any description would suffice for the Sharks, while a draw in Johannesburg would require Brad Macleod-Henderson’s outfit to claim a winning four-try bonus point against in Cape Town.
“It’s good to know, going into our game, what is needed if the Lions slip up. Whether it’s a draw, whether we need four tries, or whatever else is required. But the reality is that we need to prepare to go down there and put in a good account of ourselves regardless,” Macleod-Henderson told the official Sharks website of his side’s home semi-final chances.
Sharks assistant coach Paul Anthony agrees and admitted that they face a tall-order against Coetzee’s well-drilled outfit.
“They’re not number one on the log for nothing, they’ve been playing well. They’re attacking from turnover which means they’re still defensively astute, but their players are intelligent and they capitalise very effectively on turnovers,” Anthony revealed.
“They make the right choices and take the right options – that’s been their strength on the counter. They have a good eye for where to launch their attacks from and they have lots of speed, out wide, from full-back, at centre. And that’s why they can hit you so effectively.
“So your defensive lines have to be outstanding and you have to cut down all areas that give up turn-overs, you can’t afford to concede turn-over ball.”
With little but pride to play for, Coetzee has made several changes to his team from the one that won in Bloemfontein last week.
Wings EW Viljoen and Devon Williams will make their Currie Cup debuts, while forwards Oli Kebble (prop) and Jurie van Vuuren (lock) will make their run-on debuts after impressing as substitutes against the Cheetahs last week.
Fit-again Springbok hooker Tiaan Liebenberg and fly-half Kurt Coleman have also been handed starts in a side captained by Brok Harris.
Young forwards Justin Ackerman, Gavin Annandale, and Patrick O’Brien as well as utility back Chevandre van Schoor all start from the bench for the first time in their careers.
Apart from injuries to Kyle Cooper and Paul Jordaan, the Sharks have named a near-full-strength side which features Springbok scrum-half Cobus Reinach, who has been released by the national side.
Jordaan’s absence means S’bura Sithole shifts from wing to outside centre with Tonderai Chavhanga coming in on the wing.
Prediction: Province’s second stringers will certainly have plenty to prove to Coetzee but if the Sharks go into the match knowing that a home semi-final is on the line, they will outclass this unproven WP outfit. Sharks to win by less than five points.
Western Province: 15 Dillyn Leyds, 14 EW Viljoen, 13 Pat Howard, 12 Michael van der Spuy, 11 Devon Williams, 10 Kurt Coleman, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 Rynhardt Elstadt, 6 Rohan Kitshoff, 5 Gerbrandt Grobler, 4 Jurie van Vuuren, 3 Brok Harris (captain), 2 Tiaan Liebenberg, 1 Oliver Kebble.
Replacements: 16 Neil Rautenbach, 17 Justin Ackerman, 18 Gavin Annandale, 19 Anton van Zyl, 20 Patrick O’Brien, 21 Godlen Masimla, 22 Chevandre van Schoor.
Sharks: 15 SP Marais, 14 Tonderai Chavhanga, 13 S’bura Sithole, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Lionel Cronje, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Tera Mtembu (c), 7 Etienne Oosthuizen, 6 Jacques Botes, 5 Marco Wentzel, 4 Stephan Lewies, 3 Matt Stevens, 2 Monde Hadebe, 1 Thomas du Toit.
Replacements: 16 Franco Marais, 17 Dale Chadwick, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 JC Astle, 20 Khaya Majola, 21 Conrad Hoffmann, 22 Fred Zeilinga.
Date: Saturday, 11 October
Venue: Newlands Stadium, Cape Town
Kick-off: 17:05 local (15:05 GMT)
Referee: Jaco Peyper
Assistant Referees: Lourens van der Merwe, Marc van Zyl