Johannesburg - The Cell C Sharks will be without centre Paul Jordaan and hooker Kyle Cooper when they visit Cape Town this weekend for an Absa Currie Cup clash with Western Province that could enable them to secure a home semi-final if they win.
The supersport.com website reports, Jordaan has been ruled out for six months after having his hip dislocated against the Xerox Golden Lions last weekend, and with Heimar Williams still in doubt, the Sharks may have problems in assembling their midfield for the Newlands game. Cooper has an injured ankle and will be back for the semifinals, a game that the Sharks are now assured of playing after their good win against the Lions last weekend.
A few weeks ago the Sharks looked in doubt to make the play-offs, but strong performances at the business end of the season have given an indication of growth that just wasn’t happening in the first half of the competition. The win over the Lions, considered along with WP to be the form team for most of the season, was a particularly big confidence booster.
“The Lions are a top side, and beating them has really helped with our momentum,” said Sharks assistant coach Paul Anthony at the start of the build-up week to the Province game.
“The win against the Bulls, away, was also massive for us. Then we had a good game against the EP Kings, and now the win against Lions. We are playing the tough part of the tournament now, so to come through and beat two teams that people expected us to battle against, is huge for us.
“It also softens the blow of having lost to teams we never thought we would lose to (Pumas, Griquas). So it’s a really big boost of confidence for the boys which then keeps the momentum going into this weekend.”
The real turning point for the Sharks was probably the second half of the game against the Cheetahs in the sixth round. One week after the disappointing home defeat to GWK Griquas, the Sharks were in trouble at halftime of that game and were well behind. However, in the second half they fought back well, with their backs and forwards clicking as a unified attacking force for the first time this season, and they were leading before a last gasp Cheetahs penalty forced the draw.
Then came an unexpected win over the Vodacom Blue Bulls at Loftus, and since then there has been momentum that they will carry into a game against a WP team that is likely to be depleted by selection calls. Province has already clinched top spot on the log, so they have nothing to play for other than pride in Cape Town.
“It’s up to them if they want to keep momentum or rest players. They’ve earned that right to decide what they want to do but we’re going there to win. The one thing about Province is that they’re not beaten until they’re beaten,” said Anthony.
“They have the incredible ability to exploit errors. If you look at their tries, they exploit their opportunities really effectively. They have very intelligent players so we can leave no preparation left untouched.”
Key to the Sharks’ chances of success at Newlands will be an improvement to the set-piece that has struggled through most of the season. However they may be helped by the likelihood that the WP team will be much changed and they will lack the necessary continuity in this game to blunt a Sharks team that is now in a confident mood.