“There is pressure on Western Province, playing the last game at Newlands, but we’re going down there as underdogs“ – Sean Everitt.
SHARKS coach Sean Everitt is more than happy to accord his team “underdog” status for Saturday’s Currie Cup semi-final against Western Province at Newlands, but are the visitors really in with a less than even chance of winning?
An anomaly in the oddest of seasons where the South African teams seem to have played each other endlessly is that the last time these teams met was on March 13, at Jonsson Kings Park, where the Sharks convincingly won 24-14.
Between then and now, we have had Super Rugby Unlocked and the Currie Cup, but in both competitions, the fixtures were called off because of Covid-19.
Given that much has transpired since that March encounter, it would be rich to call this a re-match, but at the same time you wonder if the Sharks are significantly worse than they were back then and are Western Province better?
For me, the Sharks are a team that have kept threatening to burst into full throttle, only to stall for some reason or another, while Province are a side that has battled along and often looked bereft beyond that powerful tight five, where Steven Kitshoff has been magnificent – and now he is not playing …
Everitt quietly will know his team have a very good chance of winning, and he is not shy to add that the home team have the pressure of “Farewell to Newlands”.
“There is pressure on Western Province, playing the last game at Newlands, but we’re going down there as underdogs,” he said. “They were second on the log and had some good wins in the Currie Cup, but it all comes down to error rate and discipline in a play-off situation.
“We have had success at Newlands before in big games, though, so we are not intimidated by playing away,” he added.
The prevailing script ahead of this match has been about whether the Sharks pack can live with their counterparts, and supply enough decent possession for their world class backline to flourish, but Everitt feels this is simplistic.
He says WP have grown their game of late.
“They are complementing the strength of their pack with a good kicking game,” he said. “They’re not taking any chances in their own half, and are kicking the ball long, but that does give us opportunities from a counter-attack point of view.
“Everyone talks about the scrumming and their power tight five, but there are a lot of other elements of the game that you have to get right to score points. So, we’re looking at opportunities, and if we don’t play accurately in terms of receiving the kick we could be in a spot of bother, but we’ve prepared for that.”
Sharks XV (15-1): Aphelele Fassi, Sbu Nkosi, Lukhanyo Am, Marius Louw, Yaw Penxe, Curwin Bosch, Sanele Nohamba, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Henco Venter, Dylan Richardson, Ruben van Heerden, JJ van der Mescht, Thomas du Toit,Fez Mbatha, Ox Nche. Bench: Dan Jooste, Mzamo Majola, Michael Kumberai, Hyron Andrews, Thembelani Bholi, Jaden Hendrikse, Jeremy Ward, Manie Libbok