Planet Rugby

Preview: Sharks v Cheetahs

19th April 2013 08:17

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Pat Lambie of the Sharks and Frans Viljoen of the Cheetahs

Rematch: The Sharks got the better of the Cheetahs last time out

The Sharks and Cheetahs enter this encounter seething after derby losses last week, but it's the hosts who look best positioned to recover with a win.

The Cheetahs have achieved an incredibly successful start to the season, winning five of their first eight matches. However, despite entering Round Ten of the competition, the men from Bloemfontein are yet to enjoy a week off despite the likes of the Stormers currently being on their second bye week.

Throw in a trip to Australia and New Zealand and it's impressive that the Cheetahs came as close as they did to beating the Bulls last week, going down 26-20 at Loftus.

It's hard not to feel that such a strenuous schedule will not start to catch up with Naka Drotske's men, especially as the Cheetahs coach has resisted the temptation to make wholesale changes to his team at any stage.

Indeed, Saturday's line-up shows just one alteration from the team that lost to the Bulls, with Coenie Oosthuisen replacing Trevor Nyakane at prop.

The long-term loss of Johan Goosen was always going to be hard to cope with, and with half-back partner Sarel Pretorius also sidelined, the Cheetahs are missing an attacking force that could certainly propel them forward in such an encounter.

The Sharks find themselves atop of the South African Conference but enter this clash having suffered just their second loss of the season last week against the Stormers.

John Plumtree's men have been hard-hit not only by injuries but also a loss of form to key players, with the demotion of Frans Steyn, Jannie du Plessis and Ryan Kankowski a sure sign that Plumtree has lost patience with the under-performing Springbok trio.

However, it is the loss of JP Pietersen to an ankle injury that may stymie the Sharks the most.

Last season the Sharks notched up 47 tries during the regular season but with seven matches played in 2013, they have crossed the whitewash just 13 times. Pietersen is one of the Sharks' major creative forces and his loss will certainly be felt.

A back three that consists of Riaan Viljoen, Odwa Ndungane and youngster Sean Robinson won't inspire fear into the hearts of the Cheetahs defence and it would appear that once again much of the magic will have to come from fly-half Pat Lambie.

Lambie's boot has seen the Sharks home a few times this season and the pivot will need to have his kicking boots on to ensure that a lively Cheetahs outfit are kept at bay.

There have been rumblings of a crisis in the Sharks camp following Plumtree's brutally honest assessment of those who have failed to reach the heights expected of them, but there are enough positives to keep Sharks fans happy for the moment.

The performance of youngsters Cobus Reinach, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Wiehahn Herbst and Kyle Cooper have been exciting to watch and their energy together with a powerful loose trio and the cool head of Lambie should see them through.

The two teams have already faced-off this season, with the Sharks coming out on top 29-22 in the opening weekend of the 2013 campaign.

Having dominated early on the Sharks nearly let the match slip away from them after a powerful comeback from the hosts. They're sure to be wearier of making the match safe this time around.

Prediction:
The Sharks should have enough in the tank to put away the Cheetahs, but a powerful start from the visitors could leave the men from Durban doubting themselves. Regardless, the Sharks to take it by 10.

The teams:

Sharks: 15 Riaan Viljoen, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Paul Jordaan, 12 Meyer Bosman, 11 Sean Robinson, 10 Patrick Lambie, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Keegan Daniel (capt), 7 Jean Deysel, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Kyle Cooper, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Craig Burden, 17 Jannie du Plessis, 18 Anton Bresler, 19 Tera Mtembu, 20 Charl McLeod, 21 Francois Steyn, 22 Andries Coetzee.

Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Willie le Roux, 13 Johan Sadie, 12 Robert Ebersohn, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Burton Francis, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Phillip van der Walt, 7 Lappies Labuschagne, 6 Heinrich Brussow, 5 Francois Uys, 4 Lodewyk de Jager, 3 Lourens Adriaanse, 2 Adriaan Strauss (capt), 1 Coenie Oosthuisen.
Replacements: 16 Ryno Barnes, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Landman Ligtoring, 19 Frans Viljoen, 20 Tewis de Bruyn, 21 Francois Brummer Francois, 22 Ryno Benjamin.

Date: Saturday, April 20
Kick-off: 17:05 local (16:05 BST, 15:05 GMT)
Venue: Kings Park
Referee: Jonathon White (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Marius Jonker (South Africa),Stefan Breytenbach (South Africa)
Television match official: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)

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