Sharks under pressure

Having fielded A and B teams during the first half of the Absa Currie Cup, the Sharks now face the prospect of missing out on the semi-finals for the second successive season.

If the Sharks lose to the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Saturday, and the Lions win their remaining matches against Western Province (home) and Pumas (away) it could come down to points difference at the end of the season. The Sharks play the Valke at home on the final weekend and should take the full five points.

The Natalians may now regret playing their B team against Griquas in July, a match they lost 23-22. If that result doesn’t cost them a semi-final, it will almost certainly cost them a home semi-final.

To make matters worse, the Sharks are struggling with injuries after their bruising 50-32 defeat to the Bulls on Saturday.

Replacement lock Wouter Moore suffered a ruptured spleen, Brad Barritt was concussed and there is also concern over scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar (shoulder) and flyhalf Butch James (knee). Deon Carstens, BJ Botha and captain AJ Venter all pulled out of the Bulls game at the last minute, but are expected to be back for Bloemfontein.

“We have a lot of walking wounded,” Muir told Mercury rugby writer Mike Greenaway. “Hopefully, we will be in better shape in a few days’ time and can select our best team to play the Cheetahs.

“There is a lot of talk about our poor record in Bloemfontein and about the Cheetahs being our bogey team, but, honestly, that just makes it more of a challenge for us and we look forward to this opportunity to bury the bogey.”