Amazingly the Sharks will only have two changes to the starting line-up that faced the lions last week as they take on the Bulls at home for the final derby before they leave for tour. Jannie du Plessis and Beast Mtawarira will take the field hopefully fitter and full of energy after their SARU enforced rest last week.
The Sharks are in for a huge collision this weekend as they face the firing Blue Bulls who are top of the South African conference at the moment, though by a small margin. Coming off of two concurrent losses, they boys in black will be keen to prove the sceptics wrong and hit it hard at home.
The Bulls are sure to lead with a strong forwards game by drawing in the defence with the maul and then expanding into the depths of their backline, with the likes of Handré Pollard and Francois Hougaard they will surely be explosive.
The Sharks will have to ensure that their defence is on top form this week as they cannot afford to open the game to the Bulls like they did to the Lions last week. Interestingly enough, technical director Brendan Venter takes full blame for the poor defence displayed by The Sharks over the past few weeks saying; ‘Owing to the fact I oversaw the 2015 pre-season, I should have had the experience as a 45-year-old coach to know that success starts with a sound defence and everything develops from that foundation. I assumed the players would have experience in the bank as far as past defensive principles were concerned, but I’ve learned that is not how the world works.’
This is not entirely fair as I’m sure the defence would have held strong had the Sharks side actually been consistent for more than two weeks in a row. With all the selection changes and disruptions due to injury and suspensions it’s no surprise that the boys would battle on this front.
The Sharks coaching team has put major focus into the defensive aspect of their game and as a result we can expect the boys to be better prepared for this clash. We can also be hopeful in the fact that the team will remain very similar to last week, enabling the players who showed so much promise to work together in making the Sharks a unit that can be reckoned with.
Our lineouts will hopefully be a strong point with Victor Matfield off the pitch. However the head to head contest in the scrum will be tough, the Bulls will regain Adriaan Strauss and Marcel van der Merwe who are bound to pose a threat to the Sharks front row.
Both teams are hungry for a victory, Sharks for their pride and the Bulls to maintain their place on the logs as the leaders in the SA conference. Four points separate the top four South African sides in the local contest making this game extremely interesting going into the second half of the season. After ten continuous weeks of games the Cell C Sharks will be motivated to go into their well-deserved bye with three points on the board and maybe even a bonus point.
One thing is for sure, as with every Sharks vs Bulls clash, this game is going to be a nail biter and a true test of character for the boys.
15. Odwa Ndungane, 14. S’bura Sithole, 13. Waylon Murray, 12. Andre Esterhuizen, 11. Lwazi Mvovo, 10. Fred Zeilinga, 9. Cobus Reinach, 8. Renaldo Bothma, 7. Willem Alberts, 6. Marcell Coetzee, 5. Marco Wentzel (captain), 4. Mouritz Botha, 3. Jannie du Plessis, 2. Franco Marais, 1. Beast Mtawarira
Substitutes: 16. Monde Hadebe, 17. Thomas du Toit, 18. Lourens Adriaanse, 19. Lubabalo Mtyanda, 20. Etienne Oosthuizen, 21. Conrad Hoffmann, 22. Lionel Cronje, 23. SP Marais
15 Jesse Kriel, 14 Francois Hougaard, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Rudy Paige, 8 Pierre Spies (captain), 7 Jacques du Plessis, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Grant Hattingh, 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Marcel van der Merwe, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Dean Greyling
Substitutes: 16 Callie Visagie, 17 Morne Mellet, 18 Arno Botha, 19 Lappies Labuschagne, 20 Piet van Zyl, 21 Tian Schoeman, 22 Jurgen Visser, 23 Trevor Nyakane
Written by Sam Wilson