Gold keeps it simple

2015-02-27 00:00

SHARKS director of rugby Gary Gold has made three subtle rotational changes ahead of their third Super Rugby clash against the Bulls tomorrow at Loftus Versveld.

Speaking at yesterday’s press conference, Gold said he avoided disrupting his side’s momentum by making minimal changes to the starting XV.

The only change to the backline sees 20-year-old inside centre André Esterhuizen come in to bulk up the backline in the place of Heimar Williams, who falls out of the match day 23.

“We are not going to rotate every single player in every position and you don’t want to make wholesale changes but we thought after three weeks, if you include Toulon, that would be the right time to make a couple of subtle changes and it made sense going to Pretoria that we bring a bit more beef into the backline.”

At 110 kg, Esterhuizen certainly does add some prime Klerksdorp “beef” to the Sharks midfield. Meanwhile Ryan Kan­kowski slots in at eighthman in place of Tera Mtembu while Lourens Adriaanse joins the bench — relieving Matt Stevens of his front row duties this weekend.

The Sharks are in for a fiery clash tomorrow. The talk all week has been of a smarting Bulls side desperately in need of a win to make up for two home losses and Gold expects just as much.

“It’s never easy going up there. Particularly seeing as they are quite desperate — I think that should be a warning sign for us. We played well on the weekend and gained a lot of confidence. We know where we want to go and it’s in our hands to hopefully replicate that performance up in Pretoria.”

The possibility of late thundershowers might increase the chance of aerial ping-pong but Gold had already hedged his bets on the Bulls using the boot no matter the weather.

“I anticipate them to kick a lot more this week than they have in the past. Interestingly enough, we looked at was how they react when the ball is kicked on them and I was surprised to see 50% of the time they actually run the ball back — which certainly isn’t the Bulls of old,” Gold said.

“In the past if you kicked anything, and I’m talking between their 10 yard and their try line, that thing was coming straight back and that hasn’t necessarily been the case in the past few weeks. I’m anticipating them to go back to that in a big way.”

There is plenty of excitement around the battle between Pat Lambie and Handré Pollard and while Gold didn’t want to hype up the contest, he admitted the two players have big roles to play.

“They are both the incumbent 10s at the Springboks at the moment. If we can continue to set a good platform with the forwards up front and get some dominance then it makes Pat’s life a little bit easier. Conversely it will make Handré’s a little more difficult or vice versa — whoever has the dominance.”

He also weighed in on their strengths, highlighting how both players have been moulded by the playing styles of their unions. According to Gold, the Sharks’ ball-in-hand approach has helped Lambie develop deft touches on the ball; while the Bulls’ affinity for the kick and chase has honed Pollard’s kicking game.

“I think Pat will take the ball to the line a little more than Handré will but I think he will be very effective if he does that,” Gold said

“I’m not for one second saying that Handré is not a good footballer, I think he’s an outstanding rugby player and I’m happy that decision is a difficult one for Heyneke [Meyer — Springbok coach] and not for us. But I mean it because Pat does it more due to the brand of rugby that he’s accustomed to playing here as opposed to Handre.”

Both pivots will be influential but a game of rugby is not won by one player and Gold knows the Bulls will have taken stock after a poor campaign start.

“After two losses at home — you do a lot of introspective thinking and you lie awake for many hours at night as a coach. There’s no doubt they would have reassessed every nook and cranny of their game and I’m sure they will come out with something difference.”

Meanwhile, captain Bismarck du Plessis will be at the coalface and is expecting the Bulls to come out firing.

“You would be a fool to think they’re not going to be storming out of the change room and be really physical in the first half and throughout the game.

“It’s important for us to match that physicality and the intensity they’re going to bring in the first contact situations,” Du Plessis said.

Weekend Super Rugby fixtures

Today

Highlanders vs Reds - 8.35 am

Force vs Hurricanes - 1 pm

Cheetahs vs Blues - 7.10 pm

Tomorrow

Chiefs vs Crusaders - 8.35 am

Rebels vs Brumbies - 10.40 am

Bulls vs Sharks - 5.05 pm

Lions vs Stormers - 7.10 pm

Sharks: SP Marais, Odwa Ndungane, Waylon Murray, André Esterhuizen, Lwazi Mvovo, Patrick Lambie, Cobus Reinach, Ryan Kankowski, Renaldo Bothma, Marcell Coetzee, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Lubabalo ‘Giant’ Mtyanda, Jannie du Plessis, Bismarck du Plessis (c), Dale Chadwick. Replacements: Kyle Cooper, Thomas du Toit, Lourens Adriaanse, Marco Wentzel, Jean Deysel, Conrad Hoffmann, Fred Zeilinga/Lionel Cronje, Jack Wilson.

Bulls: Jesse Kriel, Bjorn Basson, JJ Engelbrecht, Jan Serfontein, Francois Hougaard, Handré Pollard, Rudy Paige, Pierre Spies (c), Lappies Labuschagne, Deon Stegmann, Victor Matfield, Jacques du Plessis, Trevor Nyakane, Adriaan Strauss, Mornè Mellett. Replacements: Callie Visagie, Dean Greyling, Marcel van der Merwe, Grant Hattingh, Hanro Liebenberg, Tian Schoeman, Travis Ismaiel, Jürgen Visser.

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