Gerber sizes up the Sharks
October 6, 2000

Pumas assistant coach Danie Gerber laid down the gauntlet to the Sharks ahead of their Top Eight clash at Absa Stadium in Durban on Friday night.

The former Springbok centre said the Sharks are beatable and they haven't impressed him before last week's victory over Western Province.

That's war talk coming from one of the traditionally smaller unions. But then one could forgive the Pumas if they have their tails up after last Friday's shock win over the Cheetahs. Gerber admitted the win was a tremendous confidence boost before taking on the high-flying Sharks at the Shark Tank.

"Yes, it definitely means a lot for the confidence of the team. We were absolutely pathetic against the Kavaliers and should have won that one too. But against the Cheetahs we played much better. We played in their half for long periods in both halves and that gave us a lot of confidence.

"We know it's going to be difficult against the Sharks, but it's a good challenge and we're looking forward to it. The guys know it's make-or-break and they will give everything. If we lose, we are out and that's why a win is crucial."

The Pumas are on 12 points on the table and a win and some favourable results in some of the other games would strengthen their cause immensely. "The guys know what's at stake. I have a lot of confidence in the abilities of this young team. If you bear in mind we threw away about three, four other try-scoring opportunities, you'll realise how well they did against the Cheetahs. That we've qualified for the Top Eight is already a bonus for us."

Gerber said he believes they can pull off a win at Absa Stadium. "To have lost Giscard Pieters (pictured) has been a huge setback. He was just hitting his best form. We had the option of moving Frikkie Welsh to wing, but decided to use Riaan Potgieter. Our other wing, Gavin Passens is bloody good and we must just get the ball to him.

"Natal play a very conservative, low-risk game. They kick the balls in the corners and apply good pressure. They nailed Province on defence and intimidated them very aggressively. They are no doubt a good side, but before the WP game they haven't really impressed me."

Gerber said although the Sharks are always difficult to beat at home, his charges are not overawed by the challenge and they believe they could leave the Shark Tank with a win. "I think it works in our favour that they beat WP last weekend. They are probably still on a high after that win and maybe overly confident. That will give us a chance to take them."

It's going to take a massive effort from the Pumas to unsettle a weakened Sharks team intent on finishing top of the log and thus securing a home final. The Sharks are on a roll and Gerber is likely to eat humble pie on Friday night.

Teams for Absa Stadium:

Pumas team: Jorrie Kruger; Riaan Potgieter, Frikkie Welsh, Geoff Appleford, Gavin Passens; Jacques Benade, Bennie Nortjé (capt); Charl Els, Piet Joubert, Clarke Roberts, Marius Bosman, Matt Frank, Hakkies Swart, Henry Kemp, Sias Wagner. Substitutes: Paul Hoffman, Japie Barnard, Chaka Willemse, Francois Rossouw; Jason de Kock, Kat de Jager, Chivago Breda.

Sharks: Gaffie du Toit; Deon Kayser, Stefan Terblanche, Trevor Halstead, Rodger Smith; Butch James, Craig Davidson; Shaun Sowerby, Brad Macleod-Henderson, Warren Brosnihan, Mark Andrews (capt), Charl van Rensburg, Brent Moyle, John Smit, Ollie le Roux. Substitutes: Rob Linde, Conrad Magiera, Chris Rossouw, Brent Moyle, Stephen Brink, Lodie van Staden, Hentie Martens, Clinton van der Westhuizen.

Referee: Andre Watson.

Kick-off: 19:15.

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