Sharks, Bulls on rampage

With plenty on the line as both teams have a point to prove af­ter break

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - MIKE GREENAWAY

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.”

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