The Sharks travel to Bloemfontein this weekend to take on the Cheetahs, in what is another must win game for the Durban based side. The Cheetahs, who some have written off this year, ran the mighty Stormers close this past weekend, and the Sharks would be silly to underestimate them.
Looking at the Cheetahs season so far, and looking closely at their performance against the Stormers this past weekend, there are a few areas of concern ahead of the clash in Bloem this weekend, as well as a few areas where the Sharks can take advantage and pull off a much needed win.
Let’s start with the concerning facets in the Cheetahs play, first of which is the breakdowns. The Cheetahs, through Heinrich Brussouw and Coenie Oosthuizen, hit an enormous amount of rucks, and if the Sharks do not protect their ball at the breakdown, we are sure to lose valuable possession. The Sharks need to employ the same game plan on Brussouw as what they did with David Pocock this weekend, neutralising him and keeping him out of the game.
The Sharks will also do well to keep away from the off the ball antics the Cheetahs enjoy, and we can be assured that they will try and entice the likes of Jannie or Bismarck du Plessis into a tussle, which will not only unsettle both players and shift their focus from the task at hand, but we cannot afford playing against an attacking team like the Cheetahs with only 14 men. Keegan Daniel’s captaincy and leadership will be tested in this regard, and the ability to keep the team calm will be key.
The Cheetahs seemed to struggle in the scrums against the likes of Brok Harris and the relatively inexperienced Steven Kitshoff, and this is an area the Sharks are able to dominate, securing our own ball as well as putting pressure on the Cheetah’s ball, and in so doing forcing turnovers and penalties.
The Cheetahs like to kick possession away, as do the Sharks, with the Cheetahs making 32 kicks in the game against the Stormers. The Sharks have the better outside backs, with the ability to run at the Cheetahs instead of kicking the ball back. Hennie Daniller at fullback can kick the ball miles, and the Sharks will have to be on their toes at the back, as the extra distance in kicks can catch them off guard. The Sharks need to keep ball in hand and make sure they score tries, as the Cheetahs are not a team that will go down by a few points, as they are quick to score a few tries and overturn a big deficit.
A weakness in the Cheetahs backline is Robert Ebersohn, who has missed the most tackles in an orange jersey so far this season, and targeting him with big runs from Whitehead, Jordaan and Pietersen could create the linebreaks the Sharks need to score those tries. The Cheetahs are also currently struggling with a flyhalf that has no confidence in himself, making silly errors and kicking away any decent ball. Pressure on Sias would force errors and more possession for the Sharks to play with.
The Cheetahs’ lineouts are a strong, well working unit, and the Sharks will have to be careful to not lose their own lineout ball. The Sharks themselves have been doing really well in the set pieces, dominating scrums over the last few weeks and getting better every week in the lineouts.
The Sharks need to focus on doing their own basics right, put pressure on the weak links in the Cheetahs team, and this match could be another win in the bag. The key is that the Sharks should not underestimate the Cheetahs, and remember to play for the full 80 minutes.Tweet