Sides look to heavies for physical edge

2012-03-24 00:00

THE Waratahs are looking to their formidable Wallaby number eight, the 118 kg Wycliff Palu, to do an Alberts on the Sharks in the Super Rugby game in Sydney early today.

Palu, one of the most devastating and bruising runners in world rugby, is returning from a hamstring injury and Waratahs coach Michael Foley is banking on the big backrower bringing some power and energy to the pack. Similarly, the Sharks rely on Willem Alberts, who has precisely the same physical attributes as Palu, to provide the Sharks with momentum and direction.

Foley said Palu’s return alone would not save the Waratahs’ season but “he will give the team significant physical and mental strength”.

“He’s a world-class player, probably one of the best players in his position in the world,’’ Foley said. “The expectation is not for Cliff to go out there and win the game, but that he provides a fair bit of momentum for the team physically and mentally.’’

Foley said the Waratahs had to match the Sharks physically.

“The Sharks pose a great physical challenge. You saw last week they were down and out during that game against the Reds and they fought their way back. For us it is about being able to engage in the contest for 80 minutes.”

The Sharks will be in good humour after their unlikely comeback victory over the champion Reds last Saturday. But they do not have happy memories of Sydney and playing the Waratahs and will have to defy history to win. The Sharks have only won 27% of their matches against the Waratahs — four victories in 15 games — and their only success in Sydney was way back in 2000.

Sharks coach John Plumtree said this week that their poor record in Sydney had been discussed. “We need to put emphasis on our focus and making sure we don’t get distracted.

“The Waratahs have always been difficult to beat in Sydney, but as the Force showed against them (beating them by one point last week), it’s not an impossible task. They will be pretty focused on Saturday, they will be desperate not to drop a second home game.”

The Waratahs are also looking to Wallaby Berrick Barnes, moved to flyhalf today, to provide them with backline momentum.

“We weren’t getting the go-forward that we needed and felt that it was time for Berrick to step back into that role in 10.’’

But the Waratahs also have experienced Wallabies in their pack with Benn Robinson, one of the leading looseheads in world rugby, while Dean Mumm will test the young Sharks second-row.

We saw the worst and the best of the Sharks last week as they were cut to pieces by the Reds in the first half but then stood up and stunned the Super Rugby champions.

But they do have the chance to today to bury their Sydney hoodoo and start their overseas tour on the brightest possible note. But Plumtree is wary. “We need to make sure we’re very disciplined, that we play for 80 minutes and we don’t get behind like we did against the Reds.”

By breakfast time today we will know whether his plan has come together and his players have followed their instructions.

TEAMS

Sharks– 15 Riaan Viljoen, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Tim Whitehead, 12 Meyer Bosman, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Pat Lambie, 9 Charl McLeod, 8 Keegan Daniel (c), 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Jandre Marais, 4 Anton Bresler, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Dale Chadwick.

Replacements: 16 Craig Burden, 17 Nick Schonert, 18 Steven Sykes, 19 Jacques Botes, 20 Frederic Michalak, 21 Marius Joubert, 22 Louis Ludik.

Waratahs: - 15 Bernard Foley, 14 Tom Kingston, 13 Rob Horne, 12 Tom Carter 11 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 10 Berrick Barnes, 9 Brendan McKibbin, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Chris Alcock, 6 Dave Dennis, 5 Kane Douglas, 4 Dean Mumm, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Benn Robinson (captain).

Replacements: John Ulugia, Paddy Ryan, Sitaleki Timani, Lopeti Timani, Jono Jenkins, Sarel Pretorius, Daniel Halangahu, Peter Betham, Brackin Kauraria-Henry.

Referee: Chris Pollock (NZ). Kick-off : 6:35 am (SA time).

Today’s matches (Home team first, SA times):

Waratahs v Sharks 6.35 am, Crusaders v Cheetahs 8.35 am, Brumbies v Highlanders 10.40 am, Bulls v Reds 5.05 pm, Lions v Stormers 7.10 pm.

Bye: Chiefs

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