Big collisions expected when Sharks face Chiefs

2015-03-18 00:00

THE Sharks face a change of pace this weekend as they host their first ­international Super Rugby fixture against the Chiefs after five rounds of South African derbies.

Having survived some bruising affairs against fellow countrymen, the Sharks have a daunting task taking on one of New Zealand’s most exciting backlines, which features the likes of All Blacks Aaron Cruden and Sonny Bill Williams.

But the latter is still in doubt for this weekend’s clash after taking a massive blow to the head courtesy of Stormers prop Vincent Koch in the first half of last weekend’s match, which the Chiefs won.

Speaking to the media at their hotel in Durban, Chiefs coach Dave Rennie shed light on Williams’s condition — after Williams had reportedly suffered from headaches in the last few days.

“Sonny’s got to go through protocols in regards to concussion testing. But he’s better today [yesterday] and he’s still got a chance but we won’t take any risks with him — if he’s no good then we’ll save him for a week,” Rennie said.

“We’re going through that process and we probably won’t know until ­Friday to be honest.”

That puts a slight dampener on what promised to be a huge head-to-head clash with Springbok centre Frans Steyn, who looks to be tapping into a rich vein of form this year.

Even Rennie conceded that the Sharks have a formidable midfield now that Steyn and JP Pietersen have ­partnered up.

“They’re big men for a start, aren’t they? JP’s played a lot on the wing so he is very quick and Francois is very powerful, has a massive kicking game and likes to make his presence felt defensively. There’s no doubt it’s going to be an arm wrestle in the midfield.

“We want go forward in that area and they’ll want the same so there should be some fairly big collisions there I’d imagine.

“If Sonny’s missing and we end up with a couple of young guys in there, they’ll really enjoy the challenge,” Rennie said with a smile.

Meanwhile, Sharks backline coach Sean Everett also sang praises of the visiting team’s backline, which looked potent last weekend.

“They can score a lot of tries, and the most important thing for us is to prevent them from attacking from turnovers, that’s when they can be really dangerous. The names say it all, Aaron Cruden, Sonny Bill Williams and the likes,” Everett said.

The Sharks have the upper hand being at home but they will also be fairly confident that they can bully the visitors at scrum time.

The Chiefs had a torrid time in Cape Town and struggled in the scrums.

The Sharks turned their scrumming fortunes around last weekend in Bloemfontein and will no doubt back themselves at the set piece.

With that in mind, Rennie expects the Sharks to use their big pack to provide the platform to both kick and attack.

“The Sharks are a massive team, have a very strong scrum and there’s no doubt they’ll try and attack us in that area …”

Chiefs captain Liam Messam is no stranger to the toughness of South African rugby sides and gave a cautionary comment ahead of this weekend’s clash.

“Obviously you guys always seem to be bigger than us so the first thing is fronting up physically. South African teams like the confrontational side of things, man to man you have to really steel up,” he said.

With all that being said, the Sharks will have learnt some valuable lessons in the first five rounds.

What seems to be a trend is their tendency to only play rugby in oppositions halves, which has seen Pat Lambie and Cobus Reinach play it safe and kick for territory first and foremost — which the Chiefs are expecting this weekend.

Meanwhile, the Sharks doctor Alan Kourie delivered some good news on injured Springbok lock Pieter-Steph du Toit, who yesterday saw a knee specialist in Cape Town.

According to the doc, Du Toit underwent a knee stabilisation procedure yesterday.

“The surgery went well and the damage was not as bad as originally thought. We hope to have him fit again in three months,” Kourie said in a statement.

In the mean time, experienced lock Marco Wentzel will fill the void in the number five jersey.

• The Sharks host the Chiefs in Durban on Saturday. Kickoff is at 7.10 pm.

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