New approach from Bulls and Sharks adds spice to old rivalry
THE Bulls and Sharks have a fascinating past together, as foes.
In the modern era, 1990 was a real turning point as Natal finally lifted the Currie Cup, beating Northern Transvaal. 2007, and in Super Rugby, the roles were reversed as the Sharks suffered heartbreak at home.
Today’s match, at 5pm, spells the latest chapter in this classic rivalry, but it is a derby with a new face. The tradition is still there; the pride, the passion, and the regional hounour, but the rugby on offer will likely be something not often seen when these two titans of South African rugby clash.
The Sharks have, through their history, adapted and changed their playing style slightly. They have also always had traditional strengths, like powerful forwards and dependable set pieces, but have seldom broken with those traditions.
The same can be said of the Bulls, only to a much larger degree. The Bulls have long built up a reputation of being bruising in the forwards, conservative in the backs, and accurate in kicking.
Now, in 2018, there is a change in the waters. The Sharks have, after much promising, turned on their attacking potential and are living up to the billing they set themselves coming into this competition. With their powerful backs, skilful forwards, offloading game and desire to score, the Sharks look a little like a New Zealand side.
But that is nothing compared to their opponents, who have at their helm one of the most worldly Kiwi coaches in John Mitchell The former All Black coach has already imprinted his style of play on the Bulls, drawing them away from their conservative approach.
Suddenly, this traditional, hard-as-nails South African derby has a fresh spin on it that is far silkier, more skilful, and probably set to be a lot more entertaining in regards to attacking rugby.
The Sharks have returned from New Zealand, having racked up 100+ points, and are hungry to keep that momentum going, but they also admit they have a few strings to their bow.
“You want to score tries in this tournament, but winning games is the real objective, so if we have to fight it out in the trenches, that’s what we will do,” coach Robert du Preez explained.
Mitchell has also identified the attacking threat the Sharks pose, while making no secret of his own team’s desire to be threatening with ball in hand.
“You look at them they are confident in attack and they will look to maintain that approach. They look to win gain line and offload and keep the ball alive,” Mitchell said.
“We see that as an area they will look to continue on and they score a lot of points so that gives an indication of what they will bring. I think this game will come down to field position, gain line and whoever takes the opportunities.”
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