Sharks keen to rectify road record

2014-04-12 00:00

THE most crucial run of games this Super Rugby season for the Sharks begins tonight when they play Johan Ackermann’s high-flying Lions at Ellis Park in Johannesburg.

Jake White’s men have so far lost their only game on the road, and will want to rectify that record to boost their confidence ahead of next month’s tour, and cement their place at the top of the Super Rugby table.

The Sharks will not want complacency to creep into their game, and will not underestimate the men from Johannesburg who were beaten 28-7 by the Crusaders last week.

Speaking about the game, captain and hooker Bismarck du Plessis said they were looking to play their best, attacking rugby against the Lions this weekend.

“Johan Ackermann is doing a good job with the Lions. They’ve got a strong pack but we have played against them [this season] so we know what to expect,” he said, adding they were looking to improve on their performance against the Waratahs two weeks ago.

White also praised the work Ackermann had done with the Lions since they returned from Super Rugby wilderness.

“There’s no doubt that a guy like Ackers has got the best out of the Lions group. They were nobodies last year and they didn’t play Super Rugby. This year they were desperate to make it.

“I’m sure his speeches are about understanding that last year they had nothing and this they’re not going to just talk, they’re going to do it. To be fair, they’ve done it. They’ve won far more than people gave them credit for at the start of their campaign”

White yesterday made just one change to the match-23 that took the Waratahs apart in Durban when he selected the fit-again Paul Jordaan on the bench in the place of Heimar Williams.

The Sharks forwards in that game against the Sydney-based ’Tahs were at the very top of their game, forcing the visitors to make a number of costly mistakes that were converted into points by the impressive Fred Zeilinga and Frans Steyn’s mercurial right boot.

The Lions will have a hard time against the Sharks defence that restricted the Waratahs, with explosive players such as Adam Ashley-Cooper and Kurtley Beale to just one try.

Lionel Mapoe, who made his first start last week, will once again be at outside centre for the men in red. Jaco Kriel, who has played well this season drops down to the bench with Derick Minnie slotting straight back in after recovering from an injury he sustained when they played against the Stormers.

The main threat from the Lions will once again come from the boot of the ever dependable Marnitz Boshoff, the joint top point scorer in Super Rugby this season with 109 points.

With the Sharks’ Pat Lambie injured for the duration of the season, Boshoff will want to put in a performance against the table toppers that will make Heyneke Meyer sit up and take notice.

Tonight’s game at Ellis Park will kick off at 7.10 pm and will be officiated by Craig Joubert. Marius van der Westhuizen and Stefan Breytenbach will be his assistants while Marius Jonker will be the TMO.

TEAMS

Lions: 15. Andries Coetzee, 14. Deon van Rensburg, 13. Lionel Mapoe, 12. Stefan Watermeyer, 11. Courtnall Skosan, 10. Marnitz Boshoff, 9. Faf de Klerk, 8. Warren Whiteley (captain), 7. Willie Britz, 6. Derick Minnie, 5. Franco Mostert, 4. Martin Muller, 3. Julian Redelinghuys, 2. Willie Wepener, 1. Schalk van der Merwe

Substitutes: 16. Robbie Coetzee, 17. Corne Fourie, 18. Ruan Dreyer, 19. MB Lusaseni, 20. Jaco Kriel, 21. Ross Cronjé, 22. Elton Jantjies, 23. Alwyn Hollenbach

Sharks: 15. Lwazi Mvovo, 14. Odwa Ndungane, 13. S’bura Sithole, 12. Frans Steyn, 11. JP Pietersen, 10. Fred Zeilinga, 9. Charl McLeod, 8. Ryan Kankowski, 7. Jean Deysel, 6. Marcell Coetzee, 5. Stephan Lewies, 4. Willem Alberts, 3. Jannie du Plessis, 2. Bismarck du Plessis (captain), 1. Tendai Mtawarira

Substitutes: 16. Kyle Cooper, 17. Dale Chadwick, 18. Lourens Adriaanse, 19. Etienne Oosthuizen, 20. Keegan Daniel, 21. Stefan Ungerer, 22. Paul Jordaan, 23. SP Marais.

TODAY’S FIXTURES

9.35 am: Chiefs vs Rebels in Hamilton

11.40 am: Force vs Waratahs in Perth

5.05 pm: Cheetahs vs Crusaders in Bloemfontein

7.10 pm: Lions vs Sharks in Johannesburg.

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