Preview: Cell C Sharks vs iCollege Pumas

Tonight the Cell C Sharks will be hosting the visiting iCollege Pumas at JONSSON KINGS PARK in our round three Currie Cup match hoping to step it up a level against a visiting team intent on getting over a loss last week.

Head coach Robert du Preez has made two changes to the starting line-up with a further addition on the bench.

“The Currie Cup is an opportunity to blood youngsters, we’ve always had that mindset and Aphelele Fassi comes in at fullback on a rotational basis. We know what we have in Curwin Bosch, he provides cover for us at flyhalf and fullback, he’ll definitely get an opportunity.

“The rules in the Currie Cup provide for rolling substitutes, so we can bring players on an off as we see fit.”

Rolling substitutes are a new development this season but it means that the thinking around the use of replacements must evolve.

“What is nice about it is when injuries occur and you take someone off, they can return to the field later,” the coach explains. “We want to keep the same mindset in terms of making strategic changes instead of chopping and changing just for the sake of it.

“Similarly with Luke Stringer, we’ve bought him in as a rotational switch with Wian Vosloo. But we want to keep our continuity going, so that when we do bring in youngsters, there’s a strong team around them to back them up.”

Akker van der Merwe has returned from the Springbok squad for Currie Cup duty and du Preez admits that, “It’s great to have someone of Akker’s calibre in our setup.”

Assessing matters of late, the coach has mixed feelings, although they’re generally positive given the 100% success rate the team has enjoyed.

“We’ve had a short start to the season, just one warm-up match against Bordeaux, then we were straight into the competition. But I’m happy with our start, we were a little disappointed with our game last weekend, but the boys have worked hard this week and will pull it right.”

After two matches in the Currie Cup, the Pumas have won one and lost one and will come to Durban hoping to erase the memory of last week’s loss.

“Having watched their game last week, although I think Western Province played well against them, the scoreline was probably a little bit flattering,” du Preez explains. “The Pumas have a very good team and we’re expecting a backlash. They’re a very physical side and it’s going to be a really tough encounter.”

But for the Cell C Sharks, it’s all about the right game plan and the execution of it. Patience on attack is critical, while du Preez also identified accurate defence as a necessity.

“I was disappointed with our execution against Free State; we created so many opportunities but didn’t take them. And then the tries we conceded – that’s not our standard. So we know we’re going to have to be really spot on when it comes to defending because the Pumas are a side that scores tries from turnovers.

“For us, it’s important that we keep building our momentum and playing better; that we make a step up every week. There’s been a great response from the guys in practice and the vibe in the team is fantastic; the boys are really keen to go out and play some good rugby.”