The Sharks under-19s traveled to Winterton, a little town sort of midway between Escourt and Ladysmith on the KZN map, for a Currie Cup warm-up match against the Free State on Saturday 30 June.
By all accounts they really enjoyed their stay at the nearby Champagne Sports Resort in the Drakensberg but the field in Winterton itself was not as comfortable. It was one of those old school concrete-like pitches. Nevertheless it was a close game. The Cheetahs eventually scraping home by 13-12.
Overall the Cheetahs had the better of the forward exchanges. Here their player of the match, big tight-head Rudolph Botha and second half sub no.8 Gerhard Olivier were instrumental. The two dependable players are both from the unbeaten Grey Bloem teams of 2010 and 2011. For the Sharks, Queens College No.8 Johan Meyer was probably man of the match. Not only is he big and strong but quick as well. The Sharks also have a huge backline. The two scrumhalves aren’t small plus Flyhalf Robert du Preez (Kearsney) and the three preferred centres Gareth Meikle (Zimbabwe), Tyler Fisher (Westville) and Michael Bernardt (Oakdale) probably average a height of 1.90 metres between the four of them. Meikle is the tallest of the lot and can easily be confused for being a lock. It was therefore little wonder that both Sharks tries were made by using the big boys to bust through the number-12 channel.
The two tries of the Sharks versus one scored by their opponents gives a hint of a major problem area for the season ahead – place kicking. Robert du Preez accepted the responsibility even though he wasn’t a recognised kicker during his playing days at Kearsney. If this crucial points generating area is not sorted out in a hurry, it could have a major impact on how the Sharks fare this season.
By comparison Free State’s Jannie Strumpher, yet another Grey Bloem product is an accomplished kicker and had a good day with the boot.
Cheetahs u19 : 13
Try: Gerhard Olivier; Conversion: Jannie Strumpher; Penalties: Jannie Strumpher (2)
Sharks u19 : 12
Tries: Johan Meyer, Gareth Meikle; Conversion: Robert du Preez