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Rugby | Currie Cup

Odwa tribute ups ante for Sharks

The Cell C Sharks have been given reason to go all out for a win in their “dead rubber” final Currie Cup league match against Western Province in Durban on Saturday.

The Sharks have long since wrapped up their top spot finish on the log that guarantees them home ground advantage in all games they play in the competition for the rest of the season, so it is WP, who have to win to secure a home semifinal, who have it all to play for this weekend.

Well, at least that was how it was shaping up until the Sharks decided to grant their veteran and long-serving wing Odwa Ndungane a tribute match – and that game will be the one on Saturday. Ndungane is retiring at the end of the season at the end of a career that started with the Sharks as long ago as 2005 and his teammates will want to go all out to give him a fitting send-off as it is possible he may not get to make appearances in the semifinal or final.

“Odwa epitomises what it means to be a professional rugby player and over the years his dedication, his loyalty and his contribution to the team have remained unwavering,” said coach Robert du Preez in explaining why the tribute game was being awarded to the wing.

“It is fitting that we honour a player that has given so much to the game and those around him with a tribute match that will highlight his tremendous career. We encourage our fans to come out to Kings Park to celebrate and acknowledge the massive impact he has made during his remarkable career.”

There is of course another reason why the Sharks will want to win on Saturday (the match kicks off at 3pm). It was explained by forwards coach Pine Pienaar when he spoke to Durban rugby writers on Monday afternoon.

“We went into the bye having won 10 matches in a row and we would like to make it 11 out of 11 before the semis,” said Pienaar.

“The players have worked hard to get where they are at this stage of the season and nobody wants to let it slip now, and we know we are up against a team that has everything to play for.”

Indeed, he is right about that last point. WP coach John Dobson returned to Cape Town on Monday disappointed that his team had effectively bottled their chance of making sure of a home semifinal when they lost to the Lions in Johannesburg.

“We were hoping to go to Durban with a win over the Lions under the belt and a home semi safely secured and thus be able to give a rest to those players who need it before the semifinals but unfortunately that plan hasn’t worked out. We are going to have to give it a full go this week,” said Dobson.

“Credit to the Lions, who never stopped coming, but we butchered a lot of chances against them, and to say our lineout misfired would be an understatement. When you lose two lineouts five yards out from your own tryline, there is a 30 or 40 percent chance of the opposition scoring against you.”


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