Tough, close encounter expected
quick ball from the breakdown and their opponents have found ways of closing down or slowing their game.
The result is that scrumhalf Charl McLeod, who has also picked up the nasty Rory Kockott habit of running a couple of steps before passing, and flyhalf Pat Lambie have been unable to provide the slick service, the spark, which was a feature of the Sharks’ successful Currie Cup campaign.
There have been patches of good rugby in recent weeks — signs that their quick, flowing game is returning — but the Sharks have yet to play to their full potential. They have become a one-half team and it will require an 80-minute effort to down the Bulls tonight.
The Bulls have to be matched physically if their brawn and kicking game is to be negated. The Sharks’ bruisers, Willem Alberts, Jean Deysel and Bismarck du Plessis, will worry the Bulls, but the energy and high workrate of suspended flank Keegan Daniel, both on attack and defence, will be missed.
The Sharks’ all-Bok front-row of the Du Plessis brothers and the Beast should give them the edge in the scrums, but the Bulls have the lineout edge and the battle on the gainline will be decisive.
With a dozen Test players in each team, there will be numerous sideshows and head-to-head contests, most notably between flyhalves Pat Lambie and Morné Steyn, Charl McLeod and Fourie du Preez at the base, number eights Willem Alberts and Pierre Spies, and lineout jumpers Alistair Hargreaves and Victor Matfield.
It promises to be tough, hard and close, but the Sharks now have to lift themselves, as the Stormers did in the second half in Auckland yesterday, and prove to both friend and foe that they are also genuine Super Rugby contenders.
TEAMS Sharks – 15 Louis Ludik, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Stefan Terblanche (c), 12 Meyer Bosman, 11 JP Pietersen, 10 Pat Lambie, 9 Charl McLeod, 8 Willem Alberts, 7 Jean Deysel, 6 Jacques Botes, 5 Alistair Hargreaves, 4 Steven Sykes, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Beast Mtawarira. Replacements: 16 Craig Burden, 17 Eugene van Staden, 18 Gerhard Mostert, 19 Marcel Coetzee, 20 Conrad Hoffmann, 21 Adi Jacobs, 22 Lwazi Mvovo. Bulls – 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Bjorn Basson, 13 Jaco Pretorius, 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 Francois Hougaard, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Dewald Potgieter, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Victor Matfield (c), 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Dean Greyling. Replacements: 16 Gary Botha, 17 Rossouw de Klerk, 18 Flip van der Merwe, 19 Danie Rossouw, 20 Derick Kuün, 21 Francois Brummer, 22 Gerhard van den Heever. Referee: Bryce Lawrence (NZ). Kick-off: 7.10 pm (SS1).
Tendai ‘Beast’ Mtawarira will be expected to dominate the scrums for thee Sharks when they meet the Bulls in Durban tonight.