Lifeline at Loftus

2014-09-20 00:00

Left wings (Bjorn Basson vs Lwazi Mvovo)

Bjorn Basson:

The Springbok wing has made a recent return from injury and his reputation is nothing to scoff at as he still holds the record for the most tries in a Currie Cup season (21). More importantly, Basson has been hailed for his prowess in the aerial game. With his blistering pace, he chases kicks and competes well in the air for the ball. There is no doubt the Bulls will employ this tactic today and he could be a game breaker. He is brilliant in one-on-one situations.

Lwazi Mvovo:

Mvovo has joined the Sharks for the weekend before he returns to the Bok squad tomorrow. He has become a more complete package having spent some time at fullback during Super Rugby. He has also played a number of games against the Bulls and is reliable under the high ball. Mvovo could be an important figure in returning kicks and counter attacking. He will look to link up with SP Marais and S’bura Sithole at the back.

Inside centres (Burger Odendaal vs Andre Esterhuizen)

Burger Odendaal:

The Bulls seemed to be blessed with brilliant young centres and Odendaal has stepped up to the plate in the absence of Springbok Jan Serfontein. Odendaal plays a similar game — he is a strong and direct runner and solid on defence — which suits the Bulls’ gameplan. He has linked up well with William Small-Smith in the centre and will look to do so again today. He has a big task containing Andre Esterhuizen and it will be a clash of the youngsters in midfield.

Andre Esterhuizen:

After making his debut last week, Esterhuizen has earned himself another start. He had an improved second half against the Cheetahs and managed to get over the whitewash for his maiden try in his first Currie Cup match. Although he conceded the penalty that gave the Cheetahs the draw, he will have gained some valuable experience. He will have to rise to the occasion this afternoon as the Sharks will need go-forward from set pieces and he is the man to do it.

Flyhalves (Jacques-Louis Potgieter vs Lionel Cronjé)

Jacques-Louis Potgieter:

Potgieter will direct traffic this afternoon and will try to put the Sharks on the back foot with an aerial assault. He has been instrumental in the Bulls’ resurgence after recovering from a rib injury early in the competition. He is vastly experienced and has spent time with the Sharks previously so he might give his charges some insights in what to expect. His kicking game is his prized asset and he will look to turn the Sharks around. On attack, he is a danger and good distributor.

Lionel Cronjé:

The Sharks have preferred Cronjé over Fred Zeilinga for this clash and it seems to be his ability to play flat and deep at the right times that proved the deciding factor. Cronjé had a great game against the Cheetahs. He attacked with purpose, was all over the park and kicked well from hand. Given that the Sharks pack performs, Cronjé has a powerful runner in Esterhuizen on his shoulder and gas to burn on the outside. He will need to look for territory first and then get his backs into gear.

Eighth men (Jono Ross vs Tera Mtembu)

Jono Ross:

The Englishman of the Bulls has taken over the captaincy after Deon Stegmann’s one-week ban. Ross has been a tireless worker for the Pretoria side and is no stranger to leadership having captained the Bulls in last year’s Currie Cup. He is a hard customer and has improved his work rate in the past year making him a valuable player. His direct runs and prowess in the lineout make him a vital cog in the Bulls machine. He will have to rally his troops to get over the gain line.

Tera Mtembu:

Mtembu leads his charges into battle once more and it will be a huge task for the Sharks pack. The game will start and finish up front and everything depends on the Sharks’ performance in the set-piece, which has looked good in recent weeks. Mtembu could feature prominently as he works back to return kicks and he will have to be on form. The captain will also have to work on defence as the Bulls are direct in their approach. This will be a big test for the young captain.

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