Sharks, Bulls on rampage
With plenty on the line as both teams have a point to prove after break
ALL indications are that this evenings’ Super Rugby derby between the Sharks and the Bulls at Kings Park is going to be a cracker, with the hosts chasing a bonus-point win and the visitors wanting to make a point after the big shake-up at Loftus Versfeld.
John Mitchell, the former All Blacks coach, will not be at the ground (he is in the US with the Eagles) but the new Bulls Director of Rugby will have an ear to the ground and a sharp eye on the footage of this game.
The Bulls players know that three wins from 12 games is going to mean changes in the squad, and they will be eager to impress ahead of the no-nonsense Mitchell taking over.
The Sharks have a vague chance of a quarter-final game at Ellis Park although Christchurch is the more likely venue for the play-off that they have already secured, but where there is a mathematical chance of avoiding that long-haul flight, there is hope and plenty to play for.
The Bulls are fielding a backline packed with current Boks in form, the likes of Jan Serfontein and Jesse Kriel, and their team has nothing to lose, so their thinking will be “why not give it a full lash?”
Why not indeed after the humiliation of their season to date and they will take encouragement from the fact that they have not lost at Kings Park in four years (three wins and a draw).
The last time the Sharks played Super Rugby this season they were impressive in beating the Stormers, but that was a month ago, and what can we expect after Super Rugby having been on hold for so long?
Sharks coach Robert du Preez is the first to admit that nobody can be sure what to expect from the players after such a long break?
“It is difficult to know what is going to unfold. The players needed a break after 13 games on the trot but maybe a month was too long,” he said. “Luckily we had guys involved in the Boks and SA A matches (although some of these players are not playing because of niggles) and we have been using players in the Super Sport challenge, but nothing replaces match practice as a unit.
“And ultimately it is the same for the Bulls. Both teams are in the same position of having to attempt to hit the ground running, and that is not easy from a standstill.”
Du Preez said that the Bulls forwards were under-rated and that, as always, the key to beating them was to go toe-to-toe with their forwards.
“They have a number of young guys fighting to make a name for themselves, and we really have to get ascendancy up front because if they get good ball, they have some in-form backs who will love opportunities to run at us. You just have to look at that centre pairing. In the past the Bulls kicked a lot, but now they will run if they get the opportunity.”