Charge for home final

2014-05-31 00:00

SUPER Rugby leaders the Sharks face the Stormers in Durban tonight and the match is another must-win for Jake White’s charges as they look to take a further step towards securing the coveted number one position.

Finishing top of the standings has become an imperative part of winning the title as it gives that side home advantage in the semi-final and final, something the Sharks and their director of rugby are targeting over the closing weeks of the competition.

It has already been a long journey so far — 13 matches out of 16, which have yielded 10 wins to date and an important five-point lead over the Waratahs, who do have a game in hand, at the summit.

But there is still work to do, and according to White, coach of runners-up the Brumbies last year, they cannot afford any slip-ups.

“In the history of the competition, only once in 19 years has a team that wasn’t in the top two won the competition,” he said ahead of the King’s Park clash. “I know more than most after last year’s experience having to come to Pretoria [for a semi-final] and then having to go all the way to Hamilton from Canberra that it’s a massive bonus if you do play in front of your home crowd.

“So we’re mindful of that and we know how important it is to keep winning. Then we can get a home final and home semi-final. We’ve just got to make sure we use that advantage.”

The former Springbok boss took his charges all the way to the final last year, only to lose to the Chiefs.

With this being the final match before June’s international break, he now wants to make 100% sure he does not have to do things the hard way.

“We know that there’s three games, win all of them and you get a home semi-final and a home final, which is what we want,” he explained. “It’s as simple as that.”

Their Cape opponents have been steadily improving after a rough start to the campaign with three wins from their last four games, two of those with four bonus-point tries.

And White is wary of the dangers that come with the opposition.

“If you had asked at the start of the season which teams were going to be dangerous, everyone would have backed the Stormers,” he said. “They were good last year, they got to the Currie Cup final, they are one team hard to break down, and that is a common thread that remains in their game.

“They didn’t have a good run early on, but they are definitely improving; they’re playing better rugby now and their confidence will be much higher now than it was three or four weeks ago.

“I’m sure it will be another big derby game where we are going to have to play well.”

Allister Coetzee, coach of the Stormers, was equally wary of their hosts.

“The Sharks are not the current Super Rugby log-leaders for nothing,” he said. “They’ve grown in confidence as the tournament has progressed and their win over the Crusaders in Christchurch says a lot about their character and state of mind.

“They’re a physical side who are strong at the breakdown and who boast a good kicking game. This is, without doubt, our biggest challenge of the year.”

The Sharks have been bolstered by the availability of Springbok flanker Marcell Coetzee (shoulder), who returns for the first time in three weeks in place of Jacques Botes.

There were two changes for the Stormers as Schalk Burger (neck) and Kobus van Wyk (wrist) are replaced by Siya Kolisi and Sailosi Tagicakibau, but the Cape side will also be without the services of hooker Deon Fourie.

While Coetzee on Thursday named Fourie as his starting hooker for the game at King’s Park, Die Burger’s website has exclusively revealed that he had to pull out due to concussion.

This means the inexperienced Stephan Coetzee moves into the starting team to face Sharks captain Bismarck du Plessis, while Mike Willemse is likely to take Coetzee’s place on the bench.

Kick-off tonght is at 7.10 pm.

TEAMS

Sharks: 15. SP Marais, 14. JP Pietersen, 13. S’bura Sithole, 12. Paul Jordaan, 11. Lwazi Mvovo, 10. Francois Steyn, 9. Cobus Reinach, 8. Willem Alberts, 7. Tera Mtembu, 6. Marcell Coetzee, 5. Stephan Lewies, 4. Etienne Oosthuizen, 3. Jannie du Plessis, 2. Bismarck du Plessis (captain), 1. Tendai Mtawarira

Substitutes: 16. Kyle Cooper, 17. Dale Chadwick, 18. Lourens Adriaanse, 19. Ryan Kankowski, 20. Keegan Daniel, 21. Charl McLeod, 22. Tim Swiel, 23. Heimar Williams

Stormers: 15. Jaco Taute, 14. Cheslin Kolbe, 13. Juan de Jongh, 12. Damian de Allende, 11. Sailosi Tagicakibau, 10. Kurt Coleman, 9. Nic Groom, 8. Duane Vermeulen (captain), 7. Siya Kolisi, 6. Nizaam Carr, 5. Ruan Botha, 4. Michael Rhodes, 3. Pat Cilliers, 2. Stephan Coetzee, 1. Alistair Vermaak

Substitutes: 16. Mike Willemse, 17. Sti Sithole, 18. Martin Dreyer, 19. Jean Kleyn, 20. Manuel Carizza, 21. Dylon Frylinck, 22. Demetri Catrakilis, 23. Peter Grant

Today’s fixtures: 6.35 am - Chiefs v Waratahs; 9.35 am - Blues v Hurricanes; 11.40 am - Brumbies v Rebels; 5.05 pm - Lions v Bulls; 7.10 pm - Sharks v Stormers.

LOG

P W D L PD BPts Pts

Sharks 13 10 0 3 98 4 44

Crusaders 13 9 0 4 96 5 41

Waratahs 12 8 0 4 103 7 39

Highlanders 13 7 0 6 9 10 38

Force 13 8 0 5 -12 4 36

H'canes 13 7 0 6 79 8 36

Brumbies 13 8 0 5 16 3 35

Chiefs 12 6 2 4 15 7 35

Bulls 13 6 1 6 24 7 33

Blues 12 5 0 7 -4 6 26

Stormers 13 5 0 8 -30 4 24

Reds 13 4 0 9 -94 7 23

Rebels 12 4 0 8 -64 5 21

Cheetahs 14 3 1 10 -127 6 20

Lions 13 4 0 9 -109 2 18

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