Sharks looking to tame the Force

2015-03-28 00:00

WITH three of the Sharks’ key Springboks rested for today’s clash against the Force, a number of players have a chance to prove their worth to director of rugby Gary Gold. Sharks captain Bismarck du Plessis is serving a four-week ban, but Frans Steyn was cleared to play this weekend as the Sanzar hearing on his red card last weekend was postponed and he lines up at flyhalf. Steyn, and three other Sharks need to lead the way if the Durban outfit are to grab their third consecutive win.

OUTSIDE CENTRES

JP Pietersen vs Kyle Godwin

JP Pietersen

The Springbok wing-turned-centre has had a good start to his 2015 Super Rugby campaign although it was late. He has played all his games at outside centre and has looked and played the part while trying to develop a midfield partnership with Frans Steyn. However, last weekend’s clash against the Chiefs threw conventional play out the window, and the 13-man Sharks were each playing a number of positions to cover the open space around the field. Hopefully Pietersen will be able to focus on his own game today. He may have a bit more space to work with out wide with both Steyn and Eterhuizen drawing in defenders in the midfield. He is up against a quality player in Godwin, but Pietersen’s experience could see him be the danger man tonight.

Kyle Godwin

More of a natural inside centre and flyhalf, Godwin lines up at outside centre for tonight’s clash. The 22-year-old has the size, skill and pace to line up almost anywhere in the backline and he’s been industrious so far this season. He has made plenty of carries and is not shy to get stuck in on defence — which he is likely to do a lot of tonight. The Sharks have Steyn at flyhalf, the bulky André Esterhuizen at 12 and Pietersen at 13. All three are big, strong runners of the ball and Godwin will have a busy night watching his inside channel while keeping his third eye on the threat out wide. With plenty of confidence, Godwin will no doubt enjoy the challenge while looking to make his mark on the game. Expect Godwin to have a busy night.

FLYHALVES

Frans Steyn vs Sias Ebersohn

Frans Steyn

After his red-card tackle on Chiefs flyhalf Aaron Cruden was cleared on Monday, Steyn took over the duties at flyhalf this week for the rested Pat Lambie, but Sanzar appealed their decision on Wednesday, which put Steyn’s availability in doubt. But on Thursday they postponed the hearing till next week — clearing the Bok to play this weekend. Shifting to flyhalf shouldn’t be a problem for the versatile Steyn. Expect more of the same from the Sharks, who will look to Steyn’s boot to gain field position before they look to attack. But when they do run the ball, Steyn is spoiled for choice with options out wide – if he doesn’t choose to have a crack himself. With a good platform, Steyn and his backline could run riot.

Sias Ebersohn

One of the Force’s South African connections, Ebersohn is into his third season at the Australian union. Ebersohn faces a tough test tonight both physically and tactically. The humid conditions make running rugby somewhat difficult, and he will need to produce an accurate kicking game if the Force are to trouble the Sharks. If he can put them in the right parts of the field, Ebersohn will give his team-mates the platform to attack from. He has a quality pack of forwards in front of him and where he chooses to send the ball could make or break the game. He will have to be up to the task defensively though, as the South African side will no doubt run into the flyhalf channel all night.

EIGHTHMEN

Ben McCalman vs Ryan Kankowski

Ben McCalman

McCalman will be one of the Force’s go-to men tonight. He has had a busy Super Rugby campaign so far and is easily one of his team’s standout performers. According to the Vodacom Rugby Stats app, McCalman is the second highest ball carrier in the competition with 65. He backs that up with a great work ethic on defence. He will have to produce a similar performance tonight against a quality Sharks pack that will be looking to out-muscle the Force forwards. Expect McCalman to be at the coalface all night as he looks to nullify the Sharks’ quality loose trio. He is up against it though, as Jean Deysel and Renaldo Bothma will do a lot of the grunt work while Ryan Kankowski plays off their hard work.

Ryan Kankowski

Since his return from Japan, Kankowski has only made positive contributions to the Sharks’ campaign. The free-running number eight has complemented the Sharks loose-trio, which has mainly featured hard men Marcell Coetzee and Renaldo Bothma. While they got stuck in at the tighter exchanges, Kankowski was never far behind and he has definitely improved his game in that regard. He has been a useful resource as lineout jumper and has provided some real gas and go forward from the base of the scrum. Kankowski has a chance to find a bit more space against the Force tonight should his fellow forwards dominate upfront. The Sharks will be looking for him to open the game up.

LOCKS

Mouritz Botha vs Sam Wykes

Mouritz Botha

The English international has been in the thick of things since he joined the Sharks. He was injured in the Sharks’ first game against the Cheetahs and two black eyes summed up the tough nature of the clash. He only made his return again in round four, which happened to be the Sharks’ second clash against the Cheetahs. But the Durban side’s lock made his presence felt, and has been phenomenal at the lineout. His work rate in open play has been equally as impressive and Botha doesn’t shy away from the donkey work — cleaning rucks, tackling and carrying the ball. He will have a busy night as both Sam Wykes and young Adam Coleman have been impressive this season at both the set pieces and open play.

Sam Wykes

Wykes will captain the Force tonight and he has had a sterling season so far. Although results haven’t gone their way, the Force certainly haven’t been the whipping boys of the tournament. Wykes is a real leader in the side and his duties at the lineout highlight his affinity to lead his charges into battle. Alongside Coleman and the other Force jumpers, Wykes has a tough task going up against the experienced Wentzel and Botha. But he is no stranger to tough encounters in the air. He is also a tireless worker and he will be one of the first players getting stuck into the Sharks tonight. Expect some big hits and strong ball carries from the big lock. His ability to inspire his team will be a big factor in the outcome of the match.

Today’s Super Rugby fixtures:

Chiefs vs Cheetahs - 5.30 am

Highlanders vs Stormers - 8.35 am

Waratahs vs Blues - 10.40 am

Sharks vs Force - 5.05 pm

Bulls vs Crusaders - 7.10 pm

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