It’s a battle of the reserves as Bulls and Sharks field under-strength sides tonight

2009-07-24 00:00

IT will be the battle of the reserves when the Sharks face up to the Blue Bulls in their Currie Cup clash at King’s Park this evening.

These two teams, Currie Cup finalists last year, are unquestionably the most powerful teams in the country when at full strength, but they are both without a dozen of their first-choice players today and nearly all those missing are Springboks.

Both teams are relying heavily on inexperienced replacements to cover the yawning gaps, and the reaction of these relatively untested players to the pressures of the occasion obviously holds the key to the outcome of the contest.

Sharks head coach John Plumtree believes the scrum will be particularly important.

“The Bulls still have a big pack, but if we can look after their forwards, we must have a chance.

“If they dominate, as they like to do, we will be in for a long evening.”

Plumtree said the Sharks front-row of Deon Carstens, Craig Burden and Patric Cilliers have a critical role to play.

“We have to control our own ball and it will be tough for our front-row. Burden and young Cilliers are really still learning their trade at this level so it is a big call for them.”

The Sharks will have been boosted by the success of the Western Province pack against the Bulls last week.

“Yes, the Bulls did struggle in the scrums, but they were up against a largely Super 14 Province pack,” said Plumtree.

The Bulls have spent the week with former Sharks scrum coach Balie Swart and they are certain to be better prepared in that area tonight.

The rest of the Sharks forwards are experienced at Super 14 and Currie Cup level and Plumtree will be looking to flank Jean Deysel to provide the momentum.

The other major concern for the Sharks is at flyhalf where Monty Dumond, taking over from the suspended Guy Cronje, will be under fierce pressure.

With five Boks missing from the back division, Plumtree has had to dig deep into the reserves and Dumond cannot rely on experienced, quality players to help him on what will be a bumpy ride.

It is Dumond’s role in attack which will be crucial to the Sharks’ efforts. The outstanding feature of the Bulls’ win over Province was their defence. Dumond and the Sharks’ makeshift backline, short of playmakers and pace, could battle to make headway.

The Bulls have had their setbacks and while the Sharks lost Cronje this week, the Pretoria team were hit by the call-up of influential centre Wynand Olivier to the Springboks and there are fitness concerns over scrumhalf Heini Adams.

Plumtree said his players are in positive mood.

“It’s going to be a real battle but we can do it,” he said.

Plumtree’s forwards may well stand up and bother the Bulls, but creating openings and scoring tries will be the Sharks’ biggest problem.

Sharks

15. Stefan Terblanche (c), 14. Odwa Ndungane, 13. Andries Strauss, 12. Riaan Swanepoel, 11. Lwazi Mvovo, 10. Monty Dumond, 9. Rory Kockott, 8. Keegan Daniel, 7. Jean Deysel, 6. Jacques Botes, 5. Albert van den Berg, 4. Steven Sykes, 3. Patric Cilliers, 2. Craig Burden, 1. Deon Carstens

Replacements: 16. Skipper Badenhorst, 17. Wiehahn Herbst, 18. Michael Rhodes, 19. Justin Downey, 20. Ross Cronje, 21. Len Olivier, 22. Luzuko Vulindlu

Bulls

Tiger Mangewni, Gerhard van den Heever, Jaco Pretorius, Stefan Watermeyer, Francois Hougaard, Francois Brummer, Heini Adams, Dries van Schalkwyk, Dewald Potgieter, Jacques Burger,Wilhelm Steenkamp, Flip van der Merwe, Werner Kruger, Derick Kuün (capt.), Gurtrho Steenkamp.

Replacements: Bandise Maku, Frik Kirsten, Jaco Engels, Fudge Mabeta, Gerrit-Jan van Velze, Marius Delport, Marnitz Boshoff.

Kick-off: 6 pm.

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