Sharks pack not soft

Sharks forwards coach Theo Oosthuizen is not afraid to mix it in the tight with Valke in Brakpan on Friday night.

“We know that they’ll come hard at us up front but we’re not concerned about that, ” Oosthuizen told keo.co.za. “Maybe they think we’ll be a soft target in that area but that’s a mistake.”

The Sharks struggled at the breakdown last week, but the assistant coach believes the situation has been rectified.

“We were poor at ruck time against the Cheetahs. We allowed them to slow our ball down and that killed our backline at times,” he said. “We were also poor at stopping their rolling mauls but we’ve worked hard this week in training and I believe we’ll be back to our best.”

The pack sees one change with Skipper Badenhorst replacing the injured Bismarck du Plessis. Oosthuizen believes the experienced hooker will not destabilise a pack that have improved considerably over the tournament. “Skipper will fit straight in. He is a high quality player and knows our pattern well. He’ll be a great addition to the pack.”

The Valke pack have distinguished themselves this season against highly rated opponents, and the Sharks are well aware of their dangermen. “Piet Krause has been really good for them as has Michael Vermaak and Nico Luus.” Oosthuizen said. “We’ll have to neutralise these players and not allow them to get any momentum.”

Krause and company have attacked the flyhalf channel off set-plays often this season and Ruan Pienaar can brace himself for more of the same. According to Oosterhuizen, Pienaar is more than capable of coping with this tactic. “Ruan is a very intelligent defender and he won’t have to handle this on his own. Our loose forwards will protect him.

When asked whether their opponents would be walkovers because of numerous injuries, Oosthuizen said “They’ll be competitive. You never go to Brakpan expecting an easy game.”

Sharks vs Valke (Friday 7pm)

Sharks: 15. Francois Steyn 14. Cedric Mkhize 13. Waylon Murray 12. Andries Strauss 11. Craig Burden 10. Ruan Pienaar 9. Scott Mathie 8. AJ Venter (c) 7. Jacques Botes 6. Warren Britz 5. Steven Sykes 4. Wouter Moore 3. Brendon Botha 2. Skipper Badenhorst 1. Kees Lensing
Subs: 16. Jody Jenneker 17. Danie Saayman 18. Ryan Kankowski 19. Keegan Daniel 20. Grant Rees 21. Adrian Jacobs 22. Gcobani Bobo

Valke: 15 Mpho Matsaung, 14 Dean Okkers, 13 Riaan Hefer, 12 Jovan Bowles, 11 Sam Willard, 10 Riaan Viljoen, 9 Sarel Pretorius; 8 Michael Vermaak, 7 Jacques Nieuwenhuis, 6 Piet Krause (c), 5 Nico Luus, 4 Ryan Strudwick, 3 Philip Lemmer, 2 Frik Venter, 1 Gavin Whittingham.
Subs: 16 Zane Killian, 17 Piet Grobler, 18 Dries van Schalkwyk, 19 Sean Plaatjies, 20 Morne Adams, 21 Bosman Grobler, 22 Yannick Wombo.

By Ryan Vrede