Will Sharks be pre­pared to put the bite on Bulls at Lof­tus?

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT - VATA NGOB­ENI

FOR as long as the fat lady is yet to sing, the im­pos­si­ble re­mains pos­si­ble in this year’s Su­per Rugby com­pe­ti­tion and the Bulls could find them­selves delightful re­cip­i­ents of the Cru­saders’ vic­tory over the loglead­ing Chiefs yes­ter­day.

The Cru­saders not only en­hanced their chances of stag­ing an un­likely coup and over­throw­ing the Chiefs as New Zealand con­fer­ence cham­pi­ons but they also left the door open for the Bulls to go top of the com­bined standings if they beat the Sharks at Lof­tus Vers­feld tonight.

The Sharks, though, will be hop­ing for more favour from New Zealand sides with the re­sult of the match be­tween the Chee­tahs and Blues in Bloem­fontein hav­ing a mas­sive bear­ing on whether the coastal team will make the play-offs.

If the Chee­tahs beat the Blues then the Sharks be­ing at Lof­tus will just be a mat­ter of ful­fill­ing the fix­ture.

But if the Blues win, then the Sharks will be play­ing in their most im­por­tant match of the sea­son tonight.

With a win­ning streak of eight con­sec­u­tive matches and not hav­ing lost a game at home this year, the Bulls will want to move from likely home semi­fi­nal­ists to guar­an­tee­ing them­selves home ground ad­van­tage in their last two matches of the com­pe­ti­tion.

Be­fore get­ting car­ried away with all the pos­si­bil­i­ties of the next com­ing weeks, the Bulls will need to fo­cus on the job at hand tonight and that will be de­feat­ing what will be a stub­born and un­re­lent­ing Sharks team.

The thing about the Sharks is that they al­ways come to Lof­tus ready to fight un­til the death and at this late stage of the sea­son it al­ways seems as though matches be­tween the two have much at stake.

Even though Bulls cap­tain De­wald Pot­gi­eter smartly sidestepped the is­sue of them hold­ing some kind of psy­cho­log­i­cal ad­van­tage over the Sharks this year af­ter beat­ing them in Dur­ban and be­ing by far the best of the South African fran­chises, it will be the abun­dance of un­likely re­sults through the sea­son that would have made Pot­gi­eter par­tic­u­larly wary of the Sharks.

What will work for the Bulls is that their fo­cus has not been di­vided be­tween what they need to do on the field and what other teams are do­ing and re­gard­less of what hap­pened in Christchurch yes­ter­day, theirs was al­ways to win this game and con­tinue to be in con­trol of their des­tiny.

That des­tiny will again fall on the shoul­ders of one man, Morné Steyn.

It was Steyn that booted the Bulls to vic­tory in Dur­ban just over a month ago and it has been Steyn’s rich vein of form lately that has been piv­otal to the Bulls vic­to­ries.

It will be Steyn, again, who will need to dic­tate play with his boot by keep­ing the Sharks at bay and en­sur­ing that the Bulls gain a ter­ri­to­rial ad­van­tage.

Steyn’s boot will also be re­spon­si­ble for mak­ing sure that the score­board keeps tick­ing in favour of the hosts, while his de­ci­sion-mak­ing will also be key in un­leash­ing the Bulls’ deadly mid­field com­bi­na­tion of Jan Ser­fontein and JJ En­gel­brecht.

Ul­ti­mately, it is the bat­tle of the packs that will have a heavy in­flu­ence on which team dom­i­nates pro­ceed­ings.

Which of the all-Spring­bok front rows will dom­i­nate and who will win the bat­tle of the break­down and col­li­sion?

“They are a solid unit with a solid pack of for­wards. It is the same unit that played last year with a great run to the fi­nal. We re­spect them and we know what they bring. It will be a great test for both teams,” said Bulls coach Frans Ludeke. Bulls: Zane Kirch­ner, Akona Ndun­gane, JJ En­gel­brecht, Jan Ser­fontein, Bjorn Bas­son, Morné Steyn, Fran­cois Hougaard, De­wald Pot­gi­eter (capt), Jac­ques Pot­gi­eter, Deon Stegmann, Grant Hat­tingh, Flip van der Merwe, Werner Kruger, Chili­boy Rale­pelle, Dean Greyling. Re­place­ments: Callie Vis­agie, Frik Kirsten, Wil­helm Steenkamp, Jono Ross, Jano Ver­maak, Jür­gen Visser, Morné Mel­lett. Sharks: Ri­aan Viljoen, Odwa Ndun­gane, Louis Ludik, Butch James, Lwazi Mvovo, Pat Lam­bie, Charl McLeod, Kee­gan Daniel (capt), Willem Al­berts, Mar­cell Coet­zee, Franco van der Merwe, Ed­win He­witt, Jannie du Plessis, Bis­marck du Plessis, Tendai Mtawarira. Re­place­ments: Kyle Cooper, Wiehahn Herbst, Jan­dré Marais, Jean Dey­sel, Jac­ques Botes, Cobus Reinach, Jaco van Ton­der Ref­eree: Ja­son Jaftha

VI­TAL FOR BULLS: Morné Steyn.

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