Winning combo stays

2010-04-23 00:00

SHARKS coach John Plumtree, on a winning run, has again been able to keep changes to a minimum and there is just one new face in the starting line-up for tomorrow evening’s Super 14 game against the Auckland Blues at King’s Park.

Burly centre Riaan Swanepoel, who suffered an ankle strain and limped from the field in the second half of last Saturday’s game against the Lions, has been named on the bench. Andries Strauss, the 26-year-old former Free Stater who replaced Swanepoel at Ellis Park, retains the inside centre berth.

There is little to separate the two. Both lack genuine pace but they are hard-working players, brave runners and solid defenders. Strauss is particularly valuable in cleaning up around the tackle but it is on defence that he and his fellow-backs will be tested tomorrow.

For the rest, it is more of the same for the Sharks’ starting line-up after four successive wins. The only other change is on the bench where the powerful young loose forward Michael Rhodes replaces lock Wilhelm Steenkamp to provide backrow cover. Flank Keegan Daniel, who has a shoulder injury, remains sidelined.

Blues head coach Pat Lam has made two changes to his starting line-up. In-your-face flank Serge Lilo has been recalled to the starting line, Peter Saili replaces Viliami Ma’afu at number eight.

The Blues have been resting tired bodies since arriving in South Africa but did take on the Durban sharks from the safety of a cage on Wednesday. Lam said yesterday’s practice was the only training run scheduled for the week.

“We’ve travelled well which is really important,” Lam said. “While we have only had one training run there is a lot of focus and motivation about what needs to be achieved on Saturday night.

“While the Sharks are tough to beat in Durban, we know how high the stakes are.”

Flyhalf Stephen Brett is confident the Blues can pick up close to maximum points from their three games in South Africa — against the Sharks, Cheetahs and Lions — to leave them well-placed to reach the semi-finals.

“We definitely need our bonus points, and we preferably want the maximum haul of 14 or 15 points from this tour,” Brett told reporters. “But it’s one game at a time and the Sharks are certainly no easy-beats.”

Brett, who moved to the Blues from the Crusaders where he was playing in All Black flyhalf Dan Carter’s shadow, said he had changed his ways and his mindset.

“The Crusaders are very structured while the Blues like to run from all over the show.”

After battling with inconsistent refereeing in the first half of the season, the Sharks will be pleased that Mark Lawrence, who handled the game against the Lions, will be in charge again tomorrow while Jonathan Kaplan officiates for the clash against the Bulls at Loftus next weekend.

Tomorrow’s match kicks off at 5.05pm with the Sharks XV taking on reigning Vodacom Cup champions Griquas in a quarter-final curtain raiser at 2 pm.

TEAMS

Sharks

15. Patrick Lambie, 14. Odwa Ndungane, 13. Stefan Terblanche, 12. Andries Strauss, 11. JP Pietersen, 10. Andy Goode, 9. Ruan Pienaar, 8. Willem Alberts, 7. Jean Deysel, 6. Jacques Botes, 5. Johann Muller, 4. Steven Sykes, 3. Jannie du Plessis, 2. Bismarck du Plessis, 1. John Smit (captain)

Replacements: 16. Craig Burden, 17. Tendai Mtawarira, 18. Alistair Hargreaves, 19. Michael Rhodes, 20. Rory Kockott, 21. Riaan Swanepoel, 22. Lwazi Mvovo

Blues

15. Isaia Toeava, 14. Joe Rokocoko, 13. Benson Stanley, 12. Luke McAlister, 11. Rudi Wulf, 10. Stephen Brett, 9. Alby Mathewson, 8. Peter Saili, 7. Serge Lilo, 6. Jerome Kaino, 5. Filo Paulo, 4. Kurtis Haiu, 3. John Afoa, 2. Keven Mealamu captain, 1. Tony Woodcock.

Replacements: 16. Tom McCartney, 17. Tevita Mailau / Charlie Faumuina, 18. Andrew Van der Heijden, 19. Viliami Ma’afu, 20. Chris Smylie, 21. Rene Ranger,

22. Paul Williams,

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