After being dominated by the Vodacom Blue Bulls forwards, Sharks prop Kees Lensing has warned that the Vodacom Cheetahs will pose a multidimensional threat.
While the Bulls backline had a solid game in Durban, it is generally accepted that the foundation was laid for them by the forwards, who pummelled a hapless Sharks pack.
Lensing reflected on the drubbing but was adamant that tomorrow’s encounter at Vodacom Park will be an even greater test for the Durban side.
“We didn’t play well against the Bulls but this week we’ve worked extremely hard in training and well be ready for the Cheetahs,” he told Keo.co.za.
“The guys know that they will target us up front. There’s no way Rassie [Erasmus] would not have taken notice of our ineffectiveness at the breakdown, so we expect them to try and dominate us there again.
“Even though they don’t have the big loose-forwards of the Bulls, they will still be a handful with players like Ryno van der Merwe and Kabamba Floors, who are so quick to the breakdown and will put pressure on us all game,” he added.
Lensing said the return of Springbok duo, BJ Botha and Johan Ackermann, would ease the blow of losing AJ Venter for the season and added that the performance of the experienced players would have to set an example for the young brigade of Ryan Kankowski, Steven Sykes and co.
“The youngsters will look to us to stand up in a big game like this. If we are performing poorly it will definitely affect them. We can’t let that happen. If it does, we might see a repeat of last week.”
A almighty battle looms between Lensing and Cheetahs tighthead prop, Jannie du Plessis. The victor of that duel will play a significant role in establishing ascendency for their respective teams.
Far from making sweeping claims about how he would look to dominate Du Plessis, Lensing was generous in his praise.
“Jannie is one of the best tightheads in the country at the moment. He has a great scrumagging technique and is great in the loose,” he said before subtly laying down a challenge. “I’ll put pressure on him and we’ll have to see if his up to the task.”
He added that while the Cheetahs pack would be the obvious threat, their backline players possessed enough dynamism to devastate any side.
“In Bevan Fortuin, Willem De Waal and Michael Claassens, the Cheetahs have three quality backline players with the abilty to hurt you in different ways.
“Bevan’s tactical kicking has improved drastically and his counter-attacking from broken play is amazing. Willem and Michael are possibly the most underrated backs in the country, with Willem’s boot being his greatest asset.”
There is no option other than a win for the Sharks if they hope to keep their home semi-final hopes alive, and Lensing was frank when probed about how the pressure would affect his team’s performance.
“The pressure will definitely tell on the young guys,” he asserted. “If we let them score early, like we did against the Bulls, they [the young players] are going to think ‘Here we go again’ and become demoralised.
“The key for us will be to try and keep the game as tight as possible for the first 20 minutes. If we manage to do that, we really have a good base to attack them.”
By Ryan Vrede