The Sharks and Lions go head-to-head in the weekend’s Absa Currie Cup spotlight match, a massive Joburg derby match that the opposition teams and plenty of rugby fans will be watching with more than just a passing interest.
The Lions are a bonus point ahead of The Sharks on the log going into this match with the winner going into the halfway stage leading the other seven teams, a nice psychological boost ahead of round two.
“It’s the end of the first round and while it’s not a case of winner takes all, it would be nice to finish at the top at the end of round one,” explains coach John Plumtree. “We know we have a tough few weeks ahead of us, Lions and Bulls away in successive weeks so it’s a really good test for this squad.”
Both sides have suffered just one loss (the Lions had a five match winning streak come to an end last week and The Sharks suffered an upset loss to Griquas midway through the first round) but it appears – on the face of it at least – that the Lions will be hoping their good attack is able to break The Sharks good defence.
The Lions have scored 25 tries – just one short of the Cheetahs who have the best record (26) – and conceded 14 which is three more than The Sharks (11). However, in a match at the kind of pace both teams like to play the game, defences on both sides will be tested as each team looks to break the opposition’s line.
While there have been some disappointments and frustrations for The Sharks in this campaign the fact that they are pushing to finish top of the log at the halfway stage is a real positive, the fact that they might end round one as the top dog despite not always playing the kind of rugby they are capable of delivering.
“There is plenty of room for improvement, but we’ve got plenty of time to improve and we’d like to see some improvement this week,” explains The Sharks coach. “We’ve played some good rugby – and we’ve played some average rugby – but I don’t think there are too many sides who could honestly say that they’ve performed to the best of their abilities yet. The Lions have perhaps touched on it, but really, us, the Bulls, Province, the Cheetahs … haven’t performed 100% of the time.
“But there is a whole round to get that right before the finals.”
Beyond the fact that a number of players from each team once represented the current opposition, generally at a junior level and into their early senior careers, the coaches too have a long history of friendly and competitive rivalry and once more will be playing for the Hawera Cup.
In the corresponding away fixture of the 2010 Absa Currie Cup, the Lions sneaked in 22-20, this after a solid 48-19 loss to The Sharks at Mr Price KINGS PARK.
The Lions also upset the applecart with a 30-all draw against The Sharks in this year’s Vodacom Super Rugby tournament when The Sharks were pushing hard for a place in the knock-out stages. Although it was a minor hiccup, it was a reminder – as will last year’s Currie Cup defeat – that they will be every bit as tough as their log position suggests.
15. Louis Ludik, 14 Sibusiso Sithole, 13 Stefan Terblanche, 12 Meyer Bosman, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Frederic Michalak, 9 Charl McLeod, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Marcell Coetzee, 6 Keegan Daniel (C), 5 Ross Skeate, 4 Anton Bresler, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Craig Burden, 1 Dale Chadwick. Replacements: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Eugene van Staden, 18 Jan Andre Marais, 19 Jean Deysel, 20 Jacques Botes, 21 Conrad Hoffmann, 22 Adrian Jacobs.
Josh Strauss is fit and will lead the MTN Golden Lions in their top-of-the-log Absa Currie Cup match against the Sharks at Coca-Cola Park on Saturday, 27 August 2011, kick-off 5.05pm. The Lions are a single log point ahead of the Sharks.
Strauss left the field halfway through the close 28-26 Newlands loss to Western Province last weekend with a rib injury. Initial fears that he will have to miss Saturday’s important encounter were fortunately for the Lions unfounded.
There is just one change to the side that lost to WP. Lock Wikus van Heerden, who was initially selected for the match but withdrew on the Friday before the Newlands clash following an injury sustained during training, returns in place of Johan Snyman who was called in to start at lock. Snyman moves to the bench.
Further good news for the Lions is that Doppies la Grange, who was in fine form before a hamstring injury, is fit and will start on the bench. Coach John Mitchell has made it clear from the outset that La Grange will be given sufficient opportunity to recover from the strain and will not be risked unnecessarily.
Interestingly Mitchell has selected a five-two bench with the versatility of his backs allowing him the luxury to tackle the Natalians full-on with five replacement forwards. La Grange and Burton Francis are the two backs on the bench.
MTN Golden Lions
15 Jaco Taute, 14 Deon van Rensburg, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Alwyn Hollenbach, 11 Michael Killian, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Michael Bondesio, 8 Joshua Strauss (capt.), 7 Derick Minnie, 6 Cobus Grobbelaar, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Wikus van Heerden, 3 Patric Cilliers, 2 Bandise Maku, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg. Replacements: 16 Martin Bezuidenhout, 17 Jacobie Adriaanse, 18 Joe Snyman, 19 Michael Rhodes, 20 Warren Whiteley, 21 Doppies la Grange, 22 Burton Francis.