There aren’t too many rugby clashes that raise such interest as one between the Cell C Sharks and Western Province and given the importance riding on the outcome of Saturday’s Currie Cup clash, this derby takes on even greater focus.
It doesn’t get much closer: both teams are unbeaten, and both have earned bonus point victories in all four of their matches in the pool stages to date. With 20 log points each and one round left after this weekend to tie up the highest possible ranking ahead of the knock-outs, it’s clear that this is no ordinary match.
“We’re treating this game as a quarter-final – it’s that important,” admitted head coach of the Cell C Sharks, Robert du Preez.”
“Western Province are probably the form team of the competition, they’re a very good attacking side and you can’t afford to make mistakes and turn ball possession over to them,” he said of the myriad dangers that lurk.”
“They’ve been very good with turnovers and they also have a very good defensive record. It’s all to play for and we’re looking forward to this clash, it’s going to be a big one.”
In last week’s match, the first half was a near-perfect example of how to play winning rugby, despite the conditions which were hardly conducive to running rugby. Despite the hurdles, it was a half in which the Lions battled and that showed on the scoreboard. Particularly as far as penalties go and this is an area that du Preez said he would be hoping for more of the same against Province.
“Discipline is something we pride ourselves , we only gave away one penalty in the first half against the Lions but in the second half, six. Discipline is going to be a huge factor in a tough game like this.”
Ultimately, he admitted that the team can’t go backwards after that winning performance.
“We want to build on the first half we had against the Lions last week.”
In last week’s invaluable win over the Golden Lions, it was a game in which a handful of players were returning from injury and the game lost some shape in the second half, although this time greater cohesion is expected.
“We just lost our structure a little bit when we brought the bench players on, and with the team having done so well to that point, the guys just wanted to do their bit too and possibly try to prove a point,” he explained.
“Hopefully we’ll be better off when we bring the bench on this week.”
Captain Chiliboy Ralepelle waded in with his thoughts ahead of the big derby match.
Although the Cell C Sharks and Western Province are unbeaten with a game in hand, the fact remains that one team is likely to lose (a draw is always possible) and that puts pressure on them going into the final round, with the Bulls and Lions chasing in third and fourth spot respectively.
“It’s important that we get a home semi, this weekend offers the opportunity to keep the continuity going and get ourselves into the rhythm while still enjoying ourselves,” he explained.
“We’re going there to make sure we get the result.”
The match kicks off at 2pm at Newlands, with the final pool match seeing the Cell C Sharks on the road for a second successive weekend, traveling to Kimberley next Saturday to take on Griquas who have nothing to play for, finding themselves in sixth position on the log and outside of a top four finish.