New ap­proach from Bulls and Sharks adds spice to old ri­valry

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT - DAR­RYN POL­LOCK

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.”


UN­DER IN­VES­TI­GA­TION: Manch­ester City’s head coach Pep Guardi­ola was sent off in the club’s match against Liver­pool in mid­week. He has now been charged by Uefa over ‘im­proper con­duct’.

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