Sharks lie in wait for Free State
July 29, 2010
Charl McLeod will hope to lead the Sharks' charge for a third successive win © Getty Images
The Sharks will go hunting a third successive victory as they face Free State on Saturday in the crucial top-four clash in Bloemfontein.
After losing their opening game against Griquas in Kimberley, the Sharks have bounced back with wins over the Blue Bulls and Pumas. But their hopes of maintaining the pressure on table-topping Western Province will be tested to the full by a Free State team that put them out of the competition in the semi-finals last year.
The fixture comes too soon for Sharks hooker Bismarck du Plessis, whose return from a four-month injury lay-off has been put off for another week. But Ryan Kankowski is also available for the match, leaving coach John Plumtree to choose from Keegan Daniel, Jacques Botes, Alberts and Kankowski in the backrow.
Free State are fourth in the table after overcoming the Blue Bulls 23-25 last Saturday. But they are struggling to find the try-scoring potency of their rivals with seven so far, although their defence has been breached just five times.
The free-scoring Western Province will look to cut loose once again against the second-bottom Pumas in Cape Town on Friday. The leaders are boosted by the presence of Springboks Gio Aplon and Juan de Jongh, who will add extra pace to an already prolific side. However, scrumhalf Dewaldt Duvenage and hooker Deon Fourie are granted time to recovery from injuries.
Francois Hougaard will start at scrumhalf for the Blue Bulls, who name four released Springboks for Saturday's match against the Lions at Coca Cola Park, as they look to bounce back from the defeat to Free State. Hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle, who is on the bench, is the only one of the four not too start with, Dewald Potgieter, Hougaard and Flip van der Merwe all included in the side. But the Blue Bulls will be without the services of Deon Stegmann for at least a month.
The Lions, who have lost two of their opening three fixtures, turn to Elton Jantjies, the 19-year-old star of the South Africa under-20 side. Jantjies replaces Herkie Kruger, while backs coach Carlos Spencer is on the bench as fly-half and fullback cover.
The struggling Leopards will be desperate to register their first victory of the season against Griquas in Potchefstroom on Friday. The Leopards slumped to a 23-42 defeat to table-topping Western Province in the previous round, but they face another tough assignment against Griquas, who continue to keep pace with the leaders.
Griquas overcame the Golden Lions with a 20-26 victory last time out and coach Dawie Theron makes just two changes with Rocco Jansen making way for Richard Lawson on the right wing and flanker Davon Raubenheimer moving to No. 8 because of the ankle injury to Leon Karremaker.
The time for tinkering is over - England must nail their colours to the mast in key positions, writes Phil Vickery
"New Zealand-born Joe Schmidt has forged the Irish into a street-smart, well- prepared side," John Mitchell on the Irish renaissance