Sharks will need to put Reds pack under pressure to close down Genia and Cooper

2013-05-10 00:00

THE Sharks need all the help they can get after four successive defeats and they will be relieved that the Reds will be without captain and Wallaby lock James Horwill for today’s Super Rugby game in Brisbane.

The influential Horwill was concussed during last week’s 11-11 draw with the Force and was yesterday advised to withdraw from the game at Suncorp Stadium.

Wallaby scrumhalf Will Genia will captain the team, which shows four changes from Perth.

Fit-again wing Rod Davies returns for the injured Dom Shipperley and there is a new midfield pairing — Anthony Faingaa joins Chris Feauai-Sautia and Test centre Ben Tapuai drops to the bench.

James Slipper returns at tighthead prop and Ed O’Donoghue takes over from Horwill in the second row.

The Reds suffered a stunning, humbling loss to the Sharks in the quarter-finals at Suncorp last July and the whiff of revenge is thick in the Brisbane air. The Reds, overwhelming favourites — as they are again today — were beaten 30-17 as the Sharks produced their best win of the campaign, attacking clinically in the first half to go 20-3 ahead and then defending resolutely in the second.

The Reds’ talented Test halfbacks, Genia and Quade Cooper, have this week both spoken of the determination to reverse that result.

Genia said the players had let themselves down last year: “We could have gone further in the competition, but we just didn’t play well that day.”

Cooper, who missed the play-off because of a suspension and was a water-boy, said he had felt helpless.

“It’s in the past and we can’t do much about that. What we can now do is rectify the result.”

The Reds have not beaten the Sharks since the start of the McKenzie era in 2010 (the teams did not meet in 2011 when the Brisbane franchise won the title) and this irritates Cooper.

“That statistic is very disappointing. We’ve managed to tick off a few little challenges [by overcoming New Zealand teams] and beating the Sharks is the next one on the list.”

The Reds will be facing a different Sharks outfit. Only current five players — Lwazi Mvovo, JP Pietersen, Charl McLeod, Marcell Coetzee and Keegan Daniel — started against the Reds last July.

Significantly, only two (Mvovo and McLeod) will be in their favoured positions today as Plumtree has been forced to field players out of position.

“The Sharks are battling injuries, but they are still stacked with talent across the park, including having a number of Springboks on their bench,” McKenzie said yesterday.

“It’s going to be a huge game and we need a result before we get on the plane to South Africa.”

The Sharks will have to play out of their skins to stay with the Reds who, in the year of the British Lions, have lifted the quality of their rugby.

The All Blacks’ Dan Carter, for one, believes he has never seen Australian rugby healthier as they added intensity to their natural skill.

“Most of the Australian sides are getting up each week because of that added incentive of the British Lions and I have been very impressed with them this year.”

And, as Plumtree pointed out, they will be desperate to make amends after their poor showing in Perth.

“They’re a quality side, especially at Suncorp Stadium, and we will have to play very, very well to beat them.

“They have some outstanding play-makers and we have to put them under pressure.

“But if we’re committed, and we go out there with a positive attitude, we can do well,” said the Sharks coach.

They key, of course, is to keep the mesmerising talents of Genia and Cooper under control and that will only be possible if they can place the Reds pack under pressure.

It is a massive ask of a disrupted Sharks squad. The loss of Horwill will help the Sharks, but it almost certainly won’t be enough to prevent McKenzie finally breaking his duck against Plumtree.

TEAMS

Reds: 15 Jono Lance, 14 Rod Davies, 13 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 12 Anthony Faingaa, 11 Digby Ioane, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia (captain), 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Liam Gill, 6 Eddie Quirk, 5 Ed O’Donoghue, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 James Slipper, 2 Saia Faingaa, 1 Greg Holmes

Replacements: 16 James Hanson, 17 Albert Anae, 18 Adam Wallace-Harrison, 19 Jarrad Butler, 20 Beau Robinson, 21 Ben Lucas, 22 Ben Tapuai

Sharks: 15 Riaan Viljoen, 14 Piet Lindeque, 13 JP Pietersen, 12 Meyer Bosman, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Pat Lambie, 9 Charl McLeod, 8 Keegan Daniel (captain), 7 Jean Deysel, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Kyle Cooper, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg Replacements: 16 Monde Hadebe, 17 Jannie du Plessis, 18 Anton Bresler, 19 Derick Minnie, 20 Willem Alberts, 21 Tian Meyer. 22 Odwa Ndungane

Referee: Glen Jackson (NZ). Kick-off: 11.40am (SA time).

This weekend’s fixtures (home team first, SA times)

Today: Chiefs v Force — 9.35 am

Reds v Sharks — 11.40 am

Cheetahs v Hurricanes — 7.10 pm

Tomorrow: Blues v Rebels — 9.35 am

Waratahs v Stormers — 11.40 am

Kings v Highlanders — 5.05 pm

Byes: Brumbies, Bulls, Crusaders.

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