White assembles strongest side to face Bulls in Super Rugby opener

2014-02-14 00:00

THERE is a belief in KwaZulu-Natal that Jake White’s Sharks squad is the strongest it has been in years and that it will take something special for them not to top the South African conference in this year’s Super Rugby campaign.

White’s squad virtually picks itself, and the former Springbok mentor went for the strongest possible side to face the Bulls in Durban tomorrow.

With 11 Boks in the Sharks starting lineup, and a further three on the bench, Frans Ludeke and the Bulls will start the game as underdogs, despite starting with nine Boks themselves. The “underdogs” tag was one Bulls skipper Pierre Spies said he did not mind.

The only changes White made to the side that annihilated the Lions are at the back and the side of the scrum. While Marcell Coetzee keeps his spot, vice captain Jean Deysel drops to the bench for Springbok hard-man Willem Alberts, while the shaggy-haired Ryan Kankowski comes in for Tera Mthembu.

On the bench, Kyle Cooper takes his place on the bench in the place of Monde Hadebe while Jacques Botes — the most capped player in Currie Cup history — drops out of the match 23.

The team is considerably stronger than the side announced by Ludeke on Wednesday. The Bulls only have four Springboks in their forward pack, including captain Spies, Flip van der Merwe, Dean Greyling and Werner Kruger, compared to the Sharks’ seven.

How Greyling, Callie Visagie and Kruger fare against what is arguably the best front-row in world rugby in Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira and the brothers Du Plessis, Bismarck and Jannie, will be interesting. Despite all his riches in talent, and having the upper hand in this encounter according to Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, White was cautious not to write off this youthful Bulls side, which features a not-so-young Victor Matfield making his return from retirement.

“Let’s take nothing away from the Bulls. They’ve won the competition three times and that’s more than any other South African side. The challenge is that a team needs to dominate. You need to be able to beat those teams,” White said.

“The challenge that we sit with is if we’re not good enough to beat the Bulls at home, the chances are we will struggle against the likes of the Blues and Crusaders in Auckland and Christchurch. That’s what it takes to win this competition, you have to beat teams like that and the Bulls at home.”

A win for the Sharks should set the tone for the rest of the season for what could be a memorable year for the fans.

Tomorrow’s game at Kings Park will kick off at 7.10 pm and will be officiated by Jaco Peyper. Stuart Berry and Marius Jonker will be his assistants. The TMO will be Deon van Blommestein.

Teams

Sharks: 15. SP Marais, 14. Odwa Ndungane, 13. Paul Jordaan, 12. Frans Steyn, 11. Lwazi Mvovo, 10. Patrick Lambie, 9. Cobus Reinach, 8. Ryan Kankowski, 7. Willem Alberts, 6. Marcell Coetzee, 5. Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4. Anton Bresler, 3. Jannie du Plessis, 2. Bismarck du Plessis (captain), 1. Tendai Mtawarira Substitutes: 16. Kyle Cooper, 17. Dale Chadwick, 18. Lourens Adriaanse, 19. Stephan Lewies, 20. Jean Deysel, 21. Charl McLeod, 22. Heimar Williams, 23. S’bura Sithole

Bulls: 15 Jurgen Visser, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 J J Engelbrecht, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Louis Fouché, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Pierre Spies (captain), 7 Jacques du Plessis, 6 Jono Ross, 5 Flip vd Merwe, 4 Paul Willemse, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Callie Visagie, 1 Dean Greyling Substitutes: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Frik Kirsten, 18 Victor Matfield, 19 Jacques Engelbrecht, 20 Piet van Zyl, 21 Handré Pollard, 22 Ulrich Beyers, 23 Marcel vd Merwe.

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