Stern test for Sharks against Cheetahs

Sharks flyhalf Jordan Chait.

Sharks flyhalf Jordan Chait. Gallo Images

It is “Operation Bounce Back” for the Sharks’ Currie Cup side as they tackle the table-topping Cheetahs in Wednesday’s potentially-thrilling fixture at Kings Park.

The third-placed Durbanites head into this one off the back of a disappointing loss to the Bulls in Pretoria last week, but coach Etienne Fynn has emphasised the importance of taking things one game at a time.

“I’m hesitant to say this is a ‘must win’ [game],” said Fynn.

He said:
“Every game has to be taken on its merits and you want to take a positive result out at the end of it. We go out to win and there are opportunities against the Free State, and if you take them you should have a positive result,”

There are returns to the Sharks squad for Argentine Tito Bonilla, who was ruled out of the last game due to a stomach bug, and Scottish international Dylan Richardson, who makes a long-awaited return on the bench after a prolonged stint on the sidelines.

“Tito is a Test player, he’s played for his country, he’s played Premiership in England. He’s a quality individual and we’re expecting a quality, polished performance from him. He’s going to drive our whole process.

“Dylan is itching to go. He’s been out for a while with a succession of unfortunate injuries, so you can see he’s chomping now. In our training sessions there’s a bit of niggle and it’s primarily driven by Dylan, so you can see he’s really looking forward to playing tomorrow.

“I’m sure you’re going to see him in a lot of games going forward representing the Sharks.”

The Cheetahs, who kept intact their unbeaten record in the competition against Western Province last week, will again have the vast experience of former Sharks Frans Steyn and Ruan Pienaar to call on. Fynn expects a typical running game from the hosts.

“They’re privileged in terms of the consistency of their selection,” he said.

“That builds confidence, that builds an innate understanding of what the guy inside or outside you is going to do defensively under pressure.

“That’s their first plus. What they also have are some quality individuals which they obviously rely on to drive their game. It’s clear for any observer to see the guys that push them forward.

“I expect that they’re going to try to move us around. We expect a traditional Free State approach, free-flowing.

“You can see whenever they get into the opposition’s 22 they are really polished and that comes from training and playing consistently together.”

The match kicks off at 5.45 pm.