ABSA Stadium in Durban will play host to two crucially important games of rugby on Saturday afternoon, with victory absolutely non-negotiable for the Sharks teams in both the Super 14 and Vodacom Cup .
In the first game, kicking off at 2pm, the Sharks XV will be up against Griquas in their Vodacom Cup quarter-final and Sean Everett’s men will know that home-ground advantage counts for little against the men from Kimberly; it was Griquas who inflicted the Sharks XV’s only defeat last year, in a semi-final in Durban. They then went on to win the championship, despatching the highly fancied Bulls in the final.
While the Griquas team may not be as strong as it was last year – they’ve lost a slew of players to the Cheetahs Super 14 tour, including playmakers Sarel Pretorius, Naas Olivier and Riaan Viljoen – they are always a formidable opponent in the Vodacom Cup and only narrowly missed out on a home tie themselves by virtue of an inferior points difference to the Golden Lions. They come fresh from a 60-point drubbing of the Valke, with former WP loose forward Leon Karemaker in fine form, having scored three tries. Scrumhalf Marnus Hugo and three-quarter Rocco Jansen will also have a point to prove, both having spent some time with the Sharks in the past, without ever quite making the grade. A competent pack of forwards, most of whom have done their time on the Western Cape club and age-group scene, should provide enough ball for the dangerous backs, spearheaded by the lethal Bjorn Basson, to attack with.
The Fifteen have had to really dig deep for some narrow victories in recent weeks and will really have to up their game to beat Griquas, who have a proud Vodacom Cup pedigree.
Far from playing to progress, the Sharks proper will be, once again, playing for their very lives in the Super 14 game against the Blues, knowing that a bonus-point win is a must if they wish to keep their ultra-slim, mathematical play-off hopes alive for another week. The visitors have shot themselves in the foot this year too, but with a far easier run-in heading to the play-offs will fancy their chances of sneaking fourth spot if they can just record a win in Durban.
An interesting stat, though, is that the Blues have never beaten the Sharks in the Super 14 and one has to go back to the 2005 Super 12 game to find the most recent Blues win. John Plumtree will be hoping that trend continues, along with the Blues’ seeming inability to win two matches in a row in 2010. Their last outing was a victory at home to the Western Force…
For those of you that can make it, get down to ABSA Stadium on Saturday. It’s going to be a big day indeed.Tweet