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Sharks

Brad Macleod-Henderson

Brad Macleod-Henderson

Cell C Sharks coach Brad Macleod-Henderson is happy with his side’s victory over Griquas in round one of this year’s Currie Cup competition with the Durban-based outfit besting the Peacock Blues 31-24 in closely contested affair in Kimberley on Saturday afternoon.

The visitors enjoyed a comfortable lead of 18-3 at half-time after Griquas centre Jonathan Francke was shown a Red Card in the seventh minute for a dangerous tackle.

It left the Sharks with one man over on attack as well as defence but, in the end, they had to work hard to best a motivated home side.

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Golden LionsGolden Lions coach Johan Ackermann has named his 23-man side to take on the Blue Bulls in their opening Currie Cup clash at Ellis Park on Saturday.

In the forwards, Ackermann has opted to select Ruan Dreyer at tighthead after Julian Redelinghuys suffered a minor calf injury last week. Schalk van der Merwe and Robbie Coetzee make up the rest of the front row.

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Jacques Botes

Jacques Botes

Veteran forward Jacques Botes is confident the Sharks can defend their Absa Currie Cup crown, despite the prospect of having a vastly inexperienced squad when the competition kicks off this week.

None of the Durban side’s Springboks will be available for the competition, while several experienced campaigners like Charl McLeod, Anton Bresler and Jean Deysel have left to continue their careers overseas.

“I think some people are blowing that (inexperience factor) a little bit out of proportion,” 33-year-old Botes said on Wednesday.

“We have got a young group definitely with a couple of older guys.”

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Cell C SharksThe Cell C Sharks will start the defence of the Absa Currie Cup title they won last year feeling the effects of having gone further than all the other teams in the recently completed Vodacom Super Rugby season.

Apart from the fact that they’ve lost more players to the Springboks than most, plus a few players have headed overseas, the Sharks arrived back in Durban after their Super Rugby semifinal loss to the Crusaders with injuries in areas they can ill afford it.

Both locks, Stephan Lewies and Etienne Oosthuizen, have injuries that make them doubtful starters for Saturday’s domestic competition opener against Griquas in Kimberley. Assistant coach Sean Everitt has given the pair’s chances of playing as 50 / 50, with the problem being that there isn’t too much available back-up now that the strong and abrasive Anton Bresler has headed overseas.

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Jake White

Jake White

While it’s perhaps unfair to label Jake White a ‘Tactical Neanderthal’, a well-known Kiwi scribe had a point when he commented on the lack of spark from South African rugby teams in the 15-man code.

New Zealand Herald national newspaper sports columnist, Chris Rattue, earlier this week criticised his compatriots for being less than gracious losers after they lost the Sevens final at the Commonwealth Games to South Africa.

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Jake White

Jake White

Cell C Sharks CEO John Smit says Director of Rugby Jake White won’t be actively involved with the union’s Currie Cup side.

White coached the Sharks’ Super Rugby side, but their Currie Cup team will be coached by Brad MacLeod-Henderson, with Paul Anthony and Sean Everitt as assistants.

Smith told the Sharks’ official website that White will be focusing on other areas at the union during the Currie Cup.

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Conrad Hoffmann

Brumbies scrumhalf Conrad Hoffmann has returned to play for the Sharks in this year’s Currie Cup, the Durban team announced via their official website.

The 26-year-old played for the Sharks between 2011 and 2012 after joining from Western Province.

His career was hampered by injuries before getting a lifeline at the Brumbies this year. However, a lack of game time at the Australian side has seen Hoffmann return to the Sharks ahead of the Currie Cup season.

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Kick-off for 2014′s Currie Cup is almost upon us with a full set of fixtures scheduled for 9 August.

Sportingbet have come to the party by pricing up a market for the overall winner of this tournament.

With that in mind, here’s our take on who has a major shot at the trophy and which sides may struggle to keep up with the pace.

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Lubabalo Mtembu

Lubabalo “Tera” Mtembu

The ANC in KwaZulu-Natal has commended the Sharks rugby team for their appointment on Tuesday of Lubabalo Mtembu as the team’s first black captain.

“The decision to appoint Mtembu is a clear sign that the Sharks rugby team is serious about the transformation of the sport which has been one of the thorny issues since the advent our democratic dispensation in 1994,” African National Congress provincial secretary Sihle Zikalala said in a statement.

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John Smit & Tera Mtembu

CEO, John Smit handing Tera Mtembu his jersey

The Sharks are delighted to announce the appointment of talented loose-forward Tera Mtembu as captain of the Cell C Sharks for Absa Currie Cup 2014.

Having come through The Sharks Academy ranks, this dedicated, free-spirited and hard-working youngster has always displayed leadership qualities and is a well-liked and respected member of the squad.

These commendable attributes contributed to him being entrusted with the captaincy armband, whenever he was not on senior duty, during this year’s Vodacom Cup campaign.

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Lionel Cronjé

Lionel Cronjé

The Sharks have landed the services of former Baby Bok Lionel Cronjé.

Cronjé, 25, represented the Brumbies this past season but according to the Sydney Morning Herald’s website, the utility back has signed a two-year deal with the Durban-based Sharks.

He will join them before the start of this year’s Currie Cup competition.

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Tendai Mtawarira

Beast Mtawarira: Feels privileged to play with the Du Plessis brothers

Sharks prop Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira has revealed that he will leave the Durban-based franchise at the end of 2015.

Mtawarira confirmed that he will further his career outside of South Africa after next year’s World Cup in England.

The veteran of 55 Tests with the Springboks, who has played for the Sharks since 2007, said he hopes to get a fresh challenge in Europe.

“My goals for 2015 is to help the Sharks do well in Super Rugby and to help the Springboks win the World Cup,” he told the MyPlayers website.

That would be a dream come true.

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Jake White

Jake White cut a forlorn figure as he watched his troops getting slaughtered

Sorry, it doesn’t cut it for me to hear people state upon their crushing exit on Saturday from Super Rugby 2014: “Well done Sharks, at least you got to the Semis.”

If they are simply putting it in the context of their superior performance in relation to the other South African sides, my retort is “big deal”.

This was a year, after all, when the collective SA challenge was lamentably disappointing and our teams hogged the basement terrain on the overall table.

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Richie McCaw & Nemani Nadolo

STILL GOT IT: Crusaders and All Blacks veteran Richie McCaw celebrates a great night for the franchise with Fijian flier Nemani Nadolo.

New Zealand exhales. Turns out rumours of the decline of Richie McCaw and Daniel Carter have been greatly exaggerated.

McCaw and Carter both produced timely high-quality performances in Christchurch tonight as the Crusaders won through to their 11th – yes, 11th – Super Rugby final with a 38-6 dismantling of the Sharks. The Red ‘n Blacks are now 80 minutes away from their eighth championship – but notably a first since 2008.

On a night when Kieran Read illuminated the big occasion with a stellar demonstration of his remarkable quality, and Fijian find of the year Nemani Nadolo was equally as destructive, the old soldiers McCaw and Carter were not a million miles off the standard set by the best player in the world.

With Read, this sort of stuff is as predictable as it is enjoyable. He is a colossus of the game completely at the peak of his powers. His every minute on the field these days is to be savoured.

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Corey Flynn

Corey Flynn will face his rival as the Crusaders take on the Sharks in Christchurch

Corey Flynn’s journey to tonight’s semifinal, his 150th match for the Crusaders and a clash against Bismarck du Plessis, considered the best hooker in the world, has been a long and often painful one.

There have been the five broken arms which would have forced many to think about packing it in. Not Flynn, though. He has been in and out of the All Blacks – painful in itself, but he believes his many injuries have given him the mental strength to handle it.

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Super RugbyIt is the Semi-Finals of Super Rugby 2014 this weekend! We have only the 2 Semi-Final games in this Round, as all the other 11 teams have now been dispatched. Both games take place on Saturday 27 July 2014.

It is crunch time, as only the winners advance to the Final on 2 August 2014.

The Crusaders and Waratahs host the Semi-Finals, as top contenders on the Combined Super Rugby Log. The challengers are the Cell C Sharks and the Brumbies, who have had to travel in order to see if they can advance against strong home ground advantage, for the Final.

Only 3 Super Rugby games for 2014 remain!

Bonus points for tries and losses within 7 now does not matter anymore, all that is needed is a win.

Let the games continue….

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Justin MarshallYou can attribute a large part of the Highlanders’ demise last week to their struggles at scrum time against the Sharks.

This was reminiscent, too, of the way the Crusaders succumbed to a short-staffed Sharks team in Christchurch during round robin play.

So, without resorting to the obvious, it is vital that the Crusaders avoid getting dragged into a set-piece arm wrestle against the same opposition tomorrow.

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Jake White

Sharks coach Jake White – Feeling confident

They’re 10,966 kilometres from home and massive outsiders for Saturday night’s Super Rugby semi-final, but Sharks coach Jake White thinks conditions could play into his side’s hands.

The Durban-based team know if they want any chance of stunning the Crusaders for the second time this season, they need to stick to their strengths.

On a cold Christchurch night, the Sharks will be aiming to retain possession, build up pressure and utilise their dominant scrum and rolling maul.

The long kicking games of fullback SP Marais and backline general Francois Steyn will also be integral as they seek to play the game in the right areas of the field.

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SuperBruSuper RugbyRugby-Talk’s SuperBru competition for the 2014 Super Rugby tournament is drawing to a close with only three matches remaining.

In last week’s Qualifying rounds JohnR earned the yellow cap with a solid 5 pointer moving him up 12 places to 31st. Carol still leads the pack of hungry wolves chasing at her heels, but refuses to relinquish her coveted 1st spot. Sharks_Lover is still a close second, with less than a point separating the two.

Both Winston Champ and Charo at 3 and 4 respectively have fallen slightly off the pace, with 3,5 and 5,2 points separating them from Carol.

Before making those SuperBru predictions, let’s have a look at some picks, tips and predictions first.

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Jake White

Is Jake already lining up his excuses?

Is Jake White trying to get his excuses in early should his Shark team lose against the Crusaders on Saturday?

If his tactics against the last placed SA conference side, the Cheetahs, hadn’t backfire and the Sharks were victorious, they would have had the week off and played the semi final at home.

Would he have complained about the format then?

When his Bok team won the 2007 World Cup they did so without having to face either the All Blacks or the Wallabies. White never complained about the format being skewed did he? No, he benefitted and rightly so, the rules are the rules.

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Pat Lambie

Pat Lambie

The Cell C Sharks team named by Director of Rugby Jake White shows a number of changes from last week’s line-up, albeit not in any major disruptive way as the team prepare for Saturday’s Vodacom semi-final showdown with the Crusaders, reports Sharks website editor Michael Marnewick.

With Anton Bresler falling foul to a knee injury against the Highlanders in last week’s quarter-final win at Kings Park and not making the journey to New Zealand, Willem Alberts shifts from flank to the second row, with his place on the side of the scrum taken by Jean Deysel.

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Richie McCaw

BACK: All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw has been named to return from injury in the Crusaders starting lineup for their Super Rugby semifinal against the Sharks

Richie McCaw has been named at blindside flanker and Corey Flynn will start his 150th Super Rugby match when the Crusaders meet the Sharks in Saturday night’s semifinal in Christchurch.

All Blacks captain McCaw, who hasn’t played since carrying a fractured rib into the third test against England on 21 June, has predictably been named at blindside flanker to allow the in-form Matt Todd to start in his specialist openside flanker role.

Flynn has been elevated ahead of Ben Funnell, who started the previous two matches against the Highlanders and Blues, in the only other change to the run-on side that thumped the Highlanders 34-8 at AMI Stadium on 12 July.

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Nemani Nadolo

LEADING THE WAY: Nemani Nadolo’s speed and strength has boosted the Crusaders this year – helping to push them to the NZ conference title

Former All Blacks fullback Greg Cooper can’t believe Nemani Nadolo is yet to unwrap one of his deadliest tricks.

Cooper, who coaches Nadolo at his Japanese club NEC Green Rockets, hasn’t been surprised the Fijian wing has been a sensation at the Crusaders this season but reckons he can offer even more.

While everyone knows how effective Nadolo can be with the ball in hand, Cooper says one of the best ways to expose defences is to sling cross-kicks to his left wing and reckons there is an 80 per cent chance of scoring if it is executed correctly.

“He is the best winger I have ever seen when taking the ball from cross-kicks,” Cooper, speaking from Japan, emphasised.

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Chris Boyd

INSIDER KNOWLEDGE: Chris Boyd, who will coach the Hurricanes next season, was an assistant at the Sharks in 2009 and 2010 under John Plumtree

Former Sharks assistant coach Chris Boyd doesn’t expect to see the South African side resorting to cynical behaviour or niggle to unsettle the Crusaders.

The Sharks caused a 30-25 boilover when the teams last met in Christchurch in May but they had to do it the hard way, playing 64 minutes with 14 men.

Poor discipline plagued the Sharks with loose forward Jean Deysel sent off after stamping on the face of Crusaders opposite Jordan Taufua. Fellow flanker Willem Alberts was sinbinned in the second half for a professional foul.

Boyd, who will coach the Hurricanes next season, was an assistant at the Sharks in 2009 and 2010 under John Plumtree.

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Super Rugby

Brendan Venter

Brendan Venter

Prior to our 1995 World Cup-winning campaign, the late Kitch Christie told us during one particular team meeting that we could either take the high road or the low road to reach the knockout phase writes Brendan Venter.

While we followed the former path having defeated Australia in our opening match, the Sharks’ class of 2014 have taken the latter route. Although more arduous, nothing is impossible in the oval game.

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Bismarck du Plessis

Bismarck du Plessis has grown into the role of leader

The Cell C Sharks face a daunting task this weekend, there is no doubt about that, and not many will deny that the Crusaders at home are clear cut favorites.

Having to travel to New Zealand to face a Crusader side laden with 18 All Black players in their squad should spell defeat to the side from Durban.

During the build up to this weekend’s match, cliches aplenty will be bandied about and should include phrases like “backs to the wall”, “underdog”, “nothing to lose”. All true and apt, but therein lies the rub.

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Sharks forwards pack

The powerful forward pack of the Sharks and especially their driving maul, seems to have the Crusaders on edge

Wyatt Crockett sounds like a physics teacher as tries to de-mystify the complicated task of demolishing the Sharks’ mauls.

Few things are as difficult to stop as a turbo-charged lineout drive, yet Crockett emphasises that if the Crusaders’ forwards are organised they should fear little in Saturday night’s Super Rugby semifinal at AMI Stadium.

Splintering a maul, usually off a lineout, requires technique and a pinch of luck, as well as a referee who can spot a dodgy truck-and-trailer routine.

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Jake White

Less is more – Jake White

It would seem like Jake White has been listening to and reading the opinion of bloggers on rugby sites. He certainly has a point when during an interview with a New Zealand radio station he mentioned that he also preferred the older versions of the Super Rugby competition.

The majority of the rugby viewing public feel the same way as White and would by no means complain if the tournament is reduced back to the Super 12 or even the Super 14 format.

Jake White is concerned Super Rugby is going down the wrong road as they expand the competition to eighteen teams from 2016’s season.

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Tabai Matson

NO TRICKS: Crusaders defence coach Tabai Matson expects Sharks coach Jake White’s game plan to play to their strengths

Tabai Matson would hoot with laughter if a Sharks’ insider offered to sell Jake White’s game plans this week.

Crusaders defence coach Matson expects nothing tricky from Sharks coach White in Saturday night’s Super Rugby semifinal and anyone trying to convince him otherwise risks being dispatched with a sharp tap to the temple.

“His [White] team plays to their strengths and they are very clinical with what they do,” Matson says. “They have a few things on the menu and they cook it very well.”

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Tendai 'Beast' Mtawarira

Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira did not travel to New Zealand

The Cell C Sharks squad that has made the long trek to New Zealand to face the Crusaders in the semi final clash in Christchurch on Saturday, is missing some key players.

The Sharks will spend a week in Christchurch preparing for their Super Rugby semifinal against the Crusaders.

“We’ve got some great memories there — a couple of months ago we had a great time,” White said.

“I think it would be disrespectful not to get to New Zealand straight away. I’m old school and I think if you’re going to play in that country you’ve got to live in that country.”

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Bismarck du Plessis

Winning is the autopilot setting for Bismarck du Plessis

The real Beast roaming around the Super Rugby rugby fields, is Sharks captain Bismarck du Plessis.

The bloke next to him at loosehead prop, Tendai Mtawarira, is dubbed “the Beast” who provokes rumbling shows of affection from supporters when he heads off on a run.

His impact, though, is cosmetic compared with Du Plessis.

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