Battle of the flyhalves

2009-03-20 00:00

While both coaches, John Plumtree and John Mitchell, have made a number of changes to their teams, both rotational as well as injury-enforced, the focus will be on the play-makers in today’s Super 14 match between the Sharks and Western Force in Perth.

Matt Giteau is reported to have admitted that following the win over the Brumbies three weeks ago, his team-mates had started trying to persuade him to stay following his early-season announcement that he will be returning to Canberra. Whatever the future holds for Giteau, the Force’s recent form to win away and then come from behind to draw against the Crusaders suggests that this is a strong side.

On the other hand, with Ruan Pienaar back home following a knee injury, the pivotal Sharks’ flyhalf role has been entrusted to Francois Steyn who will look to give a commanding performance in the number 10 jersey. The two players, Giteau and Steyn, different in build but both talented, confident players, hold the key today as their teams look to them to spark some magic.

The Force have a habit of playing inconsistent rugby, relying to a large degree on Giteau’s magic, and when it fails to materialise, the team tend to lose their way, as they did against the Chiefs a fortnight ago when they lost 31-13. They have had a see-saw season to date, up one week, down the next and the Sharks will be hoping they remain true to form and dip this weekend.

An all-Springbok front row should set the platform for a strong showing from the forwards who will look to step up to the plate and deliver against the Force, making sure that they stay on the front foot throughout.

The home side are missing one of their most hardworking loose-forwards in Richard Brown, which will count in the vistors’ favour and an athletic back three of Keegan Daniel, Jacques Botes and Springbok Ryan Kankowski will look to provide the Sharks with impetus on attack.

But it looks likely that plenty of action will be seen amongst the respective backlines. Will Steyn deliver a polished performance and make the plays, or will a re-jigged Force backline hold their own or even surpass what the Sharks can bring to the game?

For the third-placed Sharks a win is not-negotiable in this, their final match before heading home.

Success will certainly give their campaign a major boost at the halfway point of the tournament, but to win the Shaks have to find the forward momentum which was sadly missing last week.

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