Sharks ready to bat­tle Lions sans top-scorer Bosch

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - MIKE GREENAWAY

FOR ALL the talk of who might be play­ing who in the Su­per Rugby quar­ter-fi­nals next week, it will be a case of per­mu­ta­tions be damned when the whis­tle blows for the start of the Sharks’ game against the Lions to­mor­row at Kings Park.

In­stead it will be a case of war is de­clared. Both sides have made it very clear that they are go­ing to throw ev­ery­thing but the prover­bial kitchen sink at each other in this last op­por­tu­nity to es­tab­lish bat­tle sharp­ness be­fore the play-offs.

Some would say the Lions are al­ready the fin­ished ar­ti­cle but they will know that their last out­ing was against an un­der-strength Sun­wolves team that barely tack­led in their 94-7 ca­pit­u­la­tion. A very dif­fer­ent prospect will be a Sharks team at home with a point to prove and des­per­ate to es­tab­lish form after los­ing to the Bulls in their last out­ing.

Since los­ing to the Bulls, the Sharks have spent two weeks pre­par­ing for this match (they had a bye last week), up­ping their in­ten­sity at prac­tice, ac­cord­ing to coach Robert du Preez, and work­ing on ev­ery pos­si­ble as­pect of their game.

“I would say this is go­ing to be our tough­est match of the sea­son,” Du Preez said. “There is a lot to play for. We need to get our cam­paign back on track with a good per­for­mance go­ing into the quar­ters and they could be play­ing for No 1 spot on the over­all stand­ings, so it is go­ing to be very ex­cit­ing. We have had an up and down sea­son, es­pe­cially at home, and we owe it to our sup­port­ers to get it right on Satur­day.”

Du Preez has raised eye­brows by drop­ping Cur­win Bosch to the bench, pre­fer­ring fit-again Lwazi Mvovo at full­back and Garth April at fly­half, with Bosch cov­er­ing both po­si­tions from the bench.

It is a big call in­deed. Bosch is the sec­ond high­est points scorer in Su­per Rugby (140) be­hind the Lions’ El­ton Jan­tjies (158) with Marty Banks of the High­landers, third (120). It is pos­si­ble that the per­cep­tion that Bosch has weak­nesses on de­fence had some­thing to do with it but coach Du Preez gave this ex­pla­na­tion: “We feel that ev­ery time Lwazi has played full­back he has played re­ally well, he brings a lot of se­cu­rity at the back and he is also a very good at­tack­ing full­back as we saw when he played for SA ‘A’ (against the French Bar­bar­ians).

“We are go­ing to have to be very ac­cu­rate in the set pieces and then we have to put their key play­ers un­der pres­sure. If you give them op­por­tu­ni­ties to at­tack, they will grab them, so we must be very ac­cu­rate on de­fence,” the coach said.

“But it is not just about stop­ping the Lions, we have shown against them that we can also play at­tack­ing rugby,” Du Preez said, al­lud­ing to the match be­tween the sides in Jo­han­nes­burg on April 1.

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