Ken Borland
Sports Journalist
3 minute read
14 May 2022
8:01 am

Coach wants ’emotionally bruised’ Sharks to get back on track against Cheetahs

Ken Borland

'There will definitely be a reaction to last week, hopefully a positive one. We are emotionally bruised, but I expect us to get back on track.'

Ruan Pienaar (with ball) and Francois Steyn are key for the Free State Cheetahs. Picture: Gordon Arons/Gallo Images

A cat’s ability to right itself and land back on its feet whenever it takes a tumble is well-documented, but whether the Sharks can do the same when they visit the Free State Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Saturday for their Currie Cup match remains to be seen.

The Sharks were humbled 20-10 by the Pumas at Kings Park last weekend and now have to play the unbeaten Cheetahs at their home ground, with the Free Staters no doubt sensing a prime opportunity to take control of first place on the log.

ALSO READ: Pumas shock Sharks in Durban

The KwaZulu-Natalians are trying to hold off the Griquas and Pumas in the semi-final race, but right now coach Etienne Fynn just wants to see a much-improved display from his side.

“There will definitely be a reaction to last week and hopefully a positive one,” Fynn said on Friday. “We are emotionally bruised, but I expect us to get back on track.

“It’s about sticking to the plan and individual role-execution is critical. It’s never going to work if the players don’t stick to the plan and this week has been a time of self-reflection and getting clarity.

“The buck stops with me as coach, but if the players don’t come back with the answers we’re looking for, then you have to react in terms of selection.

“Fortunately we’ve had positive reactions from the guilty parties from last weekend and we’ve trained well. We’ll have more cohesion because 80% of the team have been playing Currie Cup right through,” Fynn said.

Steyn & Pienaar are key

As ever when playing the Cheetahs, Fynn said the key to the Sharks’ success lay in them not allowing veteran Springboks Francois Steyn and Ruan Pienaar to run the game for the Free Staters.

“The Cheetahs are a very settled group, they’ve kept the same combination through the tournament. We simply have to put them under pressure, bring the heat and force those key players to make decisions.

“We have to ensure we disrupt their quality ball and I don’t think it ever goes beyond dominating up front in South African rugby.

ALSO READ: ‘We will need to lift game,’ says Cheetahs coach after big scare against Lions

“The Cheetahs certainly know how to open the tap and close it, they manage the game well. They can play the throttle game – turn you and make you make mistakes.

“They are a settled combination at home, so it’s going to be a tough time in Bloemfontein,” Fynn admitted.

A hip-and-happening festival will be held in the stadium precincts and the Cheetahs, with such exciting players as Rosko Specman and Cohen Jasper in their backline, will be looking to play some festival rugby.

Teams

Cheetahs: Cohen Jasper, Daniel Kasende, David Brits, Francois Steyn, Rosko Specman, Siya Masuku, Ruan Pienaar (capt), Mihlali Mosi, Andisa Ntsila, Gideon van der Merwe, Victor Sekekete, Aidon Davis, Aranos Coetzee, Marnus van der Merwe, Schalk Ferreira. Bench: Cameron Dawson, Louis van der Westhuizen, Conraad van Vuuren, Ockie Barnard, Jeandrè Rudolph, Rewan Kruger, Reinhardt Fortuin, Chris Smit.

Sharks: Nevaldo Fleurs, Marnus Potgieter, Jeremy Ward (capt), Murray Koster, Anthony Volmink, Boeta Chamberlain, Cameron Wright, Mpilo Gumede, Thembelani Bholi, Dylan Richardson, Hyron Andrews, Emile van Heerden, Lourens Adriaanse, Fez Mbatha, Khwezi Mona. Bench: Dan Jooste, Dian Bleuler, Blaine Golden, Le Roux Roets, Nick Hatton, Mthokozisi Mkhabela, Tito Bonilla, Ethan Fisher.