JON CARDINELLI and RYAN VREDE analyse the big Vodacom Super Rugby game at Kings Park on Saturday.
Heinrich Brüssow is set to make his return to Super Rugby this weekend. The Cheetahs have certainly missed him in that fetching role, and their back row has lacked the balance that was so important in 2013. Hooker Adriaan Strauss has excelled at the breakdown in terms of turnovers won but the Cheetahs, as a unit, have struggled to make any sort of statement in this area.
Strauss is a world-class player, but has battled to make the same impact this season due to the collective failing of the Cheetahs' forwards. Brüssow will make a difference, but can't be expected to solve all of the Cheetahs' problems in his first game.
The Sharks should be confident about beating the Cheetahs in Durban, but that confidence must not take the form of arrogance. They are missing a number of key forwards themselves, and this Saturday they will field their fourth-choice flyhalf. The Sharks must stick to their simple, yet effective game plan, and ensure that they take all points on offer.
The Cheetahs are the worst defensive side in this year's competition, and there should be ample scoring opportunities for the Sharks. However, the boys from Bloem have the ability to score two or three tries in a short space of time, as they did against the Crusaders last week. The Sharks must maintain their excellent defensive standards this Saturday. This will allow them to contain the Cheetahs' threat, and there is every chance that an offensive defence will prove the source of some great counter-attacking opportunities.
Prediction: Sharks by 14
The Cheetahs have leaked tries faster than the government leaks money for useless causes. A massive part of their struggle has been rooted in their inability to consistently win the gainline battle and then dominate the breakdown. Heinrich Brüssow solves the second part of that problem.
For Brüssow to thrive, the Cheetahs' defenders need to find a level of power and accuracy that has alluded them so far. They certainly have the size and athleticism in their ranks to do this. Whether the bulk of those players have the technical ability is questionable. Without a consistently successful tackle fight, Brüssow may as well be watching from Japan. The Sharks will test this facet of their play to its limit, and I'm sorry to say, I think this is a test the visitors will fail. Whether they fail dismally or with honour will be telling.
Beyond that area of the game I don't see the Cheetahs having the tactical or power game to beat the Sharks. To nullify the hosts' array of attacking weaponry, they have to pin them in their territory for long periods. This requires patience and accuracy in the tactical-kicking battle, neither of which the Cheetahs have in enough measure to consider them potential winners.
The Sharks field young Tim Swiel at flyhalf. I watched this kid throughout his schoolboy days at Bishops in Cape Town and he was easily the best junior flyhalf in the country in his matric year. Only his desire to keep open his chances of playing for England denied the Baby Boks his services last season, and if he shows the aptitude required to make the step up from junior provincial rugby, there could be an interesting tug-o-war between the Springboks and England in the coming years.
He looks a special, special player. I hope he has the temperament to go with his talent. If he does, we've got a world-beater on our hands.
Prediction: Sharks by 12
Sharks – 15 Lwazi Mvovo, 14 Tonderai Chavhanga, 13 S'bura Sithole, 12 Frans Steyn, 11 JP Pietersen, 10 Tim Swiel, 9 Charl McLeod, 8 Keegan Daniel, 7 Jean Deysel, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Stephan Lewies, 4 Willem Alberts, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis (c), 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Subs: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Dale Chadwick, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 Etienne Oosthuizen, 20 Ryan Kankowski, 21 Stefan Ungerer, 22 Heimar Williams, 23 SP Marais.
Cheetahs – 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Ryno Benjamin, 11 Willie le Roux, 10 Elgar Watts, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Boom Prinsloo, 7 Jean Cook, 6 Heinrich Brüssow, 5 Francois Uys, 4 Lodewyk de Jager, 3 Maks van Dyk, 2 Adriaan Strauss (c), 1 Caylib Oosthuizen.
Subs: 16 Ryno Barnes, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Rossouw de Klerk, 19 Andries Ferreira, 20 Teboho Mohoje, 21 Shaun Venter, 22 Riaan Smit, 23 Raymond Rhule.
Photo: Sabelo Mngoma/BackpagePix