Sharks not taking ‘desperate’ Chiefs challenge lightly

2009-02-26 00:00

“We are going to meet a really desperate team … so we are going to have to ensure that we want it more and that we’re mentally ready for them because they are going to come out of the tunnel ready to go.

“We spoke about that and know what’s coming so we’ll be fighting fire with fire.”

In Bismarck du Plessis, back from injury and replacing Springbok captain John Smit, they have a fiery character of their own, but he and his team-mates will have their hands full trying to contain the likes of Sione Lauaki.

With a hamstring injury that ruled him out of last week’s match, the panic buttons could be sounding for the Chiefs. Without a win to date, and possibly feeling that this match could be make or break for them, they have nevertheless named a semi-fit game-breaker. Losing their opening two matches, and then going down at home, could put a severe damper on their championship aspirations this season and the Sharks are only too aware that this game is a final of sorts for the home side.

While Lauaki has made the grade, the Chiefs’ All Black fullback Mils Muliaina has not made the cut and has been left out, replaced by Sosene Anesi who together with Lelia Masaga and Sitiveni Sivivatu make up a potent back three who will look to test the Sharks on attack.

This is a speedy trio who are happy to attack from anywhere on the field and this will test the Sharks, especially in their one-on-one defending has been a concern of late — although their defensive record in conceding just three tries (the lowest in the tournament) suggests otherwise.

One of the other factors driving the Sharks’ recent success has been the strong leadership group and, in Jacques Botes, who replaces flank Keegan Daniel in the only other change to this weekend’s side, they welcome back one of their most experienced players. Last week Botes, returning from injury, earned his 50th Super rugby cap coming off the bench against the Lions.

“Jacques is a senior player, one of our leaders and it’s awesome to have him back,” Muller said yesterday.

“John Smit also probably played two of his better games in his Super 14 career [against the Stormers and Lions]. I’m sure Keegan and John will do a great job coming off the bench and provide the squad with some energy when it counts.”

Chiefs line-up: 15. Sosene Anesi, 14. Lelia Masaga, 13. Dwayne Sweeney, 12. Callum Bruce, 11. Sitiveni Sivivatu, 10. Stephen Donald, 9. Brendon Leonard, 8. Sione Lauaki, 7. Tanerau Latimer, 6. Liam Messam (captain), 5. Kevin O’Neill, 4. Craig Clarke, 3. James McGougan, 2. Aled de Malmanche, 1. Sona Taumalolo

Reserves: 16. Hika Elliot, 17. Ben May, 18. Toby Lynn, 19. Serge Lilo, 20. Toby Morland, 21. Mike Delany, 22. Jackson Willison.

Kick-off: 8.35 am tomorrow. (SA time).

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