Bulls to hit Sharks’ lineouts

2011-05-19 00:00

THE Bulls are looking to their tall men and aggressive defence to topple the Sharks in the Super Rugby derby at King’s Park on Saturday night.

The Sharks’ lineout problems have persisted for most of the tournament while the Bulls, with specialist Victor Matfield and Bakkies Botha in the second-row and Pierre Spies standing tall at the tail, have the skill and tactical nous to dominate that area of the game.

They also have a competent pair of kicking halves in Springboks Morné Steyn and Fourie du Preez and the pair will make liberal use of the boot in playing for territory and keeping the ball down the touchline.

Bulls coach Frans Ludeke is convinced that his team’s lineout superiority will influence the Sharks’ game plan.

“We expect the Sharks to try to carry the ball and keep it alive. I don’t expect them to kick the ball into touch a lot because the lineout is our strength,” he said.

Sharks lineout specialist, the lanky Alistair Hargreaves, and fellow-lock Steven Sykes will be tested throughout by Matfield and company. And, adding to the pressure on the two-metre Hargreaves, is that the injured Ryan Kankowski and the suspended Keegan Daniel, who have been used as lineout options in the past, will be missing today. The Bulls ran up 40 points in the first half of their outing against the Rebels last Saturday, and eventually came away with a 47-10 win, but it was their defence which most impressed Ludeke.

“We defended brilliantly and plugged all the holes against the Rebels. It was a great defensive performance and the Sharks will have to be stopped in the same manner. We’ll have to tackle them back and stop their ball-carriers,” he added.

The Bulls coach said the mood in the camp was positive after their recent improved form.

“We now have good momentum after beating the Chiefs and Rebels and that gives us confidence for the rest of the tournament. But the Sharks are also under pressure to win. I don’t expect them to stand back and neither will we. So there is a big clash coming,” said Ludeke.

“Matches between us and the Sharks have been on a knife’s edge for the past three or four years. There have been one or perhaps two moments in the game that were decisive. There will therefore not be much margin for error.”

John Plumtree, the Sharks coach, is also expecting the most bruising of battles on Saturday night. He said that the derby games were physically taxing and four of his team’s last five games (against the Cheetahs, the Lions and two against the Bulls) were against South African opponents with three of them away from home.

“All the derby games throughout the competition have had a more physical element, but we’ve also had big battles against the overseas sides. It’s getting to that real crunch time when every point is important and the intensity will step up.”

He said that the players had enjoyed last weekend’s bye, but they were aware of starting slowly against the Bulls after the break.

“We have talked about it and it is crucial that we come out and start well. We didn’t do that against the Hurricanes and it took us about 40 minutes to get into the game so I’m hoping that will serve as a warning and we’ll be better this weekend.”

Plumtree said that the title race was wide open and that added to the intensity because very few teams were totally out of contention.

“It’s not an easy tournament. It’s physical and demanding, but it is wonderful for precisely those reasons,” said Plumtree.

“You are subjected to a major test at every level every week. The longer it continues, the tougher it becomes and every team’s depth will be severely tested in the last month.

“Everybody now knows where they stand and what needs to be done in the last five weeks to make the play-offs. For us, particularly, it won’t be easy with our last three games against the Cheetahs, Lions and Bulls away from home.

“We need to keep the pressure on the Stormers and that’s why it’s important to beat the Bulls on Saturday and also knock them out of contention. But the Bulls are a quality team and know how to react when the pressure is on. That is why we expect a massive onslaught from them.

The Sharks coach said it was difficult to judge the quality of the Bulls’ weekend performance because “the Rebels were so poor”.

“But the Bulls have clearly regained their confidence and that makes them dangerous,” Plumtree added.

Saturday’s match kicks off at 7.10 pm and New Zealand referee Bryce Lawrence will be in charge.

Blue Bulls coach Frans Ludeke has made four changes to his starting line up for the clash, while the Sharks are expected to name their side today.



Zane Kirchner, Bjorn Basson, Jaco Pretorius, Wynand Olivier, Francois Hougaard, Morné Steyn, Fourie du Preez, Pierre Spies, Dewald Potgieter, Deon Stegmann, Victor Matfield (c), Bakkies Botha, Werner Kruger, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Dean Greyling.

Replacements: Gary Botha, Rossouw de Klerk, Flip van der Merwe, Danie Rossouw, Derick Kun, Francois Brummer, Gerhard van den Heever.

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