PREVIEW: Free State Cheetahs v Sharks
CURRIE CUP SEMIFINAL: In Bloemfontein, the Free State Cheetahs will go in search of their first Final berth since 2016, while defending champions the Sharks, will have their sights on their third consecutive appearance in the Final.
The last time they crossed paths, the Sharks won by a narrow seven points in Durban and while this is expected to serve as inspiration for the visitors, it will also fuel the Free Staters’ motivation to win.
The hosts have been more effective on attack this season, with 40 tries scored to 26 by the Sharks, but they have been fairly closely matched on defence, with the home side conceding 24 points fewer in their six matches this season.
🎙 @tianmeyer says the support behind the team makes a massive difference.
— Toyota Cheetahs (@CheetahsRugby) August 28, 2019
The Free State Cheetahs made three changes and one positional switch to the side that defeated Western Province last week, with Dries Swanepoel (centre), and Erich de Jager and Ox Nche (both props) earning starts, while William Small-Smith moves from centre to the right wing.
The Cheetahs finished on top of the standings, but head coach Franco Smith knows that it will count for nothing if they can’t win on Saturday.
“What happened in the first six games is in the past,” said Smith. The guys are excited to be in this competition this late, so we are looking forward to it.
“The squad is well balanced and well prepared so now it’s just about execution and I think it’s just important for us to be smart in terms how we handle it.”
Semi-Finals Team Release Press Conference. #CHEvSHA #OurSharksForever #Reloaded
Posted by The Sharks on Thursday, 29 August 2019
Sharks coach Sean Everitt made only one change to his squad, with experienced flyhalf Curwin Bosch returning from injury, which sees him take over from Henry Chamberlain, who drops out of the matchday squad.
“The Cheetahs play a really good brand of rugby and they are a team that loves to keep the ball,” said Sharks co-captain Jeremy Ward.
“Our defence has not been up to scratch over the last few weeks, so it is something we have been focussing on.”
2019: Sharks won 27-20, Durban
2018: Sharks won 33-29, Bloemfontein
2017: Sharks won 45-15, Durban
2017: Free State Cheetahs won 47-12, Bloemfontein
2016: Free State Cheetahs won 38-30, Durban
Prediction: Free State Cheetahs
Free State Cheetahs: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 William Small-Smith, 13 Benhard Janse van Rensburg, 12 Dries Swanepoel, 11 Tian Meyer (captain), 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Henco Venter, 7 Abongile Nonkontwana, 6 Junior Pokomela, 5 Walt Steenkamp, 4 Sintu Manjesi, 3 Erich de Jager, 2 Joseph Dweba, 1 Retshegofaditswe Nché.
Replacements: 16 Jacques du Toit, 17 Schalk van der Merwe, 18 Reinach Venter, 19 Jean-Pierre du Preez, 20 Gerhard Olivier, 21 Jasper Wiese, 22 Louis Fouche, 22 Darren Adonis.
Sharks: 15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Jeremy Ward, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Sanele Nohamba, 8 Tera Mtembu, 7 Jacques Vermeulen, 6 Phepsi Buthelezi, 5 Hyron Andrews, 4 Ruben van Heerden, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Kerron van Vuuren, 1 Thomas du Toit.
Replacements: 16 Dylan Richardson, 17 Mzamo Majola, 18 John-Hubert Meyer, 19 Gideon Koegelenberg, 20 Andisa Ntsila, 21 Cameron Wright, 22 Rhyno Smith, 23 JP Pietersen.
Date: Saturday, August 31
Venue: Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
Kick-off: 17.00 (15.00 GMT)
Referee: AJ Jacobs
Assistant Referees: Marius van der Westhuizen, Paul Mente
TMO: Joey Klaaste-Salmans
— Toyota Cheetahs (@CheetahsRugby) August 29, 2019