The Sharks enjoyed a well-deserved rest during their bye last week after 10 consecutive weeks of rugby. They should at this stage be well settled in Australia ready to take on the Hurricanes in Dunedin.
Bismarck du Plessis is back in the line-up for the Sharks this week, however; the captaincy still remains with Marco Wentzel. Bismark has interestingly enough declined captaincy in an effort to concentrate on his own game, this is arguably the best leadership decision that he’s made all season. Leading by example is after all the best form of leadership and we hope he will do that first and foremost from a defensive point of view.
The Sharks will be looking to improve their discipline on defence so as not to concede any unnecessary points. A win against the Highlanders this weekend will kick off the tour with the Sharks on a high, ready to take the overseas tour and put themselves back in a competitive position.
The Highlanders are currently in 6th place on the log and they will be eager to improve their standing as well, especially after their loss against the Brumbies last week.
The return of All Blacks Ben Smith, Malakai Fekitoa and Aaron Smith will do a lot for the Highlanders running game. The Sharks will need to keep them in close quarters in order to prevent them opening the game up and running with the ball. Let’s face it New Zealanders love a running game and we’ll be sure to expect nothing less from the Highlanders. Unfortunately it is that very style that has broken the Sharks in the past.
The Sharks forwards will be on top form and we can expect some good phase play from them tomorrow. Kicking will be, as it always is, a huge part of the Sharks game this week, but I expect more from a clearing and hopefully point scoring front. If the Sharks keep the Highlanders in their own half they will definitely have the upper hand.
Let us go into the long weekend with a bang tomorrow morning as we witness the Sharks take on the Highlanders. Its guts and glory from here on out and the Sharks will need a lot of heart to push for what we know they are capable of, a win.
Highlanders – 15 Ben Smith (c), 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Richard Buckman, 11 Patrick Osborne, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Nasi Manu (c), 7 Dan Pryor, 6 Gareth Evans, 5 Mark Reddish, 4 Tom Franklin, 3 Josh Hohneck, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Kane Hames.
Subs: 16 Ash Dixon, 17 Brendon Edmonds, 18 Pingi Tala’apitaga, 19 Joe Latta, 20 Elliot Dixon, 21 Fumiaki Tanaka, 22 Marty Banks, 23 Jason Emery.
Sharks – 15 Odwa Ndungane, 14 S’bura Sithole, 13 JP Pietersen, 12 André Esterhuizen, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Fred Zeilinga, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Willem Alberts, 7 Renaldo Bothma, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Marco Wentzel (c), 4 Stephan Lewies, 3 Lourens Adriaanse, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Subs: 16 Franco Marais, 17 Dale Chadwick, 18 Matt Stevens, 19 Mouritz Botha, 20 Etienne Oosthuizen, 21 Conrad Hoffmann, 22 Lionel Cronjé, 23 Waylon Murray.
By Sam Wilson