Loftus: Possession will be key for Sharks

2012-08-25 00:00

THE Blue Bulls will be looking to their traditional forward strengths to blunt the Sharks’ sharp attacking edge and end their impressive start to their Currie Cup campaign at Loftus tonight.

The Bulls are smarting after their unexpected loss to the Free Sate Cheetahs in Bloemfontein last weekend when the Sharks were lifted by victory over the Currie Cup champion Lions.

The Bulls and the Sharks have both been decimated by Springbok demands and tonight’s contest will be test of depth in the two provinces.

The Bulls will have seen how the Sharks battled in the scrums and lineouts in the first half against the ­Lions last week. The Sharks have lost seven Springbok forwards since the end of the Super Rugby competition and the Bulls will look to take advantage. They have added former Springbok prop Werner Kruger to the front-row for this game, while the Sharks’ problems have been compounded by the loss of hooker Craig Burden to the Springbok cause.

Sharks coach John Plumtree conceded that winning primary possession would be a concern.

“From a set piece perspective, we’ve been under a bit of pressure and it’s an area the Bulls take pride in. Nothing much changes when you play the Blue Bulls. We have to be prepared to meet them in the set piece and look after their big runners.”

The Bulls have been boosted by the return this week of former Springbok number eight Dewald Potgieter. He returns to captain the team and joins another Bok discard, flank Deon Stegmann, and the robust young CJ Stander in a powerful backrow.

The Bulls will field an inexperienced backline and the focus will be on outside centre Johan Sadie, who was one of many players to earn rave reviews in Cape Town last year before moving to Pretoria where he was consistently overlooked by Super Rugby coach Frans Ludeke. He is to leave the Bulls at the end of the year to join the Cheetahs, but has the chance tonight to prove to the Loftus crowd just what they will be losing.

The Sharks have enjoyed an excellent run in recent months, winning game after game in the second half of Super Rugby and then, with a brand-new team, upsetting first Western Province in Cape Town and then the Lions in Durban in the Currie Cup.

Riaan Viljoen has slipped easily into the flyhalf role and new captain, flank Jean Deysel, has been in inspirational form. The Sharks certainly want to make the most of him before he also gets called into the Springbok squad.

The Sharks do have Super Rugby experience in the second row in Steve Sykes and Anton Bresler, but their front-rowers, Wiehahn Herbst, new hooker Monde Hadebe and Dale Chadwick, will be under massive pressure tonight.

Assistant coach Hugh Reece-Edwards said the Bulls brought out the best in the Sharks.

“It is one of those games when you don’t have to motivate the guys too much. They’ll certainly be up for it. If we keep improving, we can win. We know we have the game plan to beat them up at Loftus, but we need to cut out a lot of the mistakes.”

Backline coach Grant Bashford said the win over the Lions had buoyed the confidence in the Sharks squad.

“Apart from the missing Elton Jantjies and Derick Minnie, that Lions team beat the Sharks with all our Springboks in the Currie Cup final and in Super Rugby.

“So that was a very good win. We don’t want to get carried away, and we have to be more accurate, but the mood in the squad is positive.”

The Bulls have had a disrupted week of preparation with 12 players going down with a virus.

“This week has been difficult because we have not had training,” said their coach, Pine Pienaar, adding that the Bulls were up against “a quality side and the best provincial side in the country”.

“The Sharks were in the Super Rugby final and they are top of the log. If you make a mistake against them, they will punish you with their counter-attacking game. If we don’t put up a good fight at the collisions, they are going to make it very difficult for us.”

Sharks supporters will be hoping he is right.

TEAMS

Blue Bulls: 15 Jürgen Visser, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Clayton Blommetjies, 10 Louis Fouché, 9 Ruan Snyman, 8 Dewald Potgieter (captain), 7 CJ Stander, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Grant Hattingh, 4 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Willie Wepener, 1 Dawie Steyn.

Replacements: 16 Robbie Coetzee, 17 Frik Kirsten, 18 Cornell Hess, 19 Arno Botha, 20 Rudi Paige, 21 Lionel Cronjé, 22 Jan Serfontein

Sharks: 15. Louis Ludik 14. Odwa Ndungane 13. Paul Jordaan 12. Marius Joubert 11. S’bura Sithole 10. Riaan Viljoen 9. Charl McLeod 8. Jacques Botes 7. Jean Deysel (Captain) 6. Francois Kleinhans 5. Anton Bresler 4. Steven Sykes 3. Wiehahn Herbst 2. Monde Hadebe 1. Dale Chadwick

Replacements: 16. Franco Marais 17. Julian Redelinghuys 18. Jandre Marais 19. Lubabalo “Tera” Mtembu 20. Brynard Stander 21. Cobus Reinach 22. Gouws Prinsloo.

Referee: Jaco Peyper. Kick-off: 7.10 pm.

Today’s Currie Cup games (home team first): Griquas vs Cheetahs (3 pm); Lions vs WP (5.05 pm); Blue Bulls vs Sharks (7.10 pm).

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