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Super Rugby 2015: Round 12

Written by Rob Otto (robdylan)

Posted in :Original Content, Sharks, Super Rugby on 30 Apr 2015 at 12:58
Tagged with : , ,

For the first time this year, the Sharks have a Friday match, knowing that at least we don’t have to wait all weekend to learn our fate!

Highlanders v Sharks (Friday 09h35)

The Sharks head to Dunedin this week, a venue that they haven’t been to in two years, but otherwise have a good record in. With other South African teams struggling at the Carisbrook “House of Pain”, the Sharks (or Natal as they were) always seemed to play well there, winning their first Super 10 match there in 1993 and going on to record a string of Super Rugby victories in later years too. In fact, the Sharks recorded four straight away victories over the Highlanders between 2004 and 2010. Since the Landers have moved to the new Forsyth Barr Stadium, though, the teams have only met once, with the home side emerging narrow victors in 2013.

Both teams come off a loss in their last game, but that’s where the similarity ends – the Sharks are all but out of contention and languishing tenth on the combined log, while the Highlanders are well position in 6th place with a game in hand over a number of the teams above them. In fact, it’s only the strength of the New Zealand conference that’s counting against Jamie Joseph’s side at the moment, since their log point tally would see them challenging strongly for top position in either of the other two conferences.

The Landers rested some stars for last week’s game against the Brumbies and duly came a-cropper; they’re back at full strength this week and will not lack for motivation, but the Sharks are also considerably stronger with Bismarck du Plessis, Stephan Lewies and JP Pietersen back and will be determined to continue their own upward trajectory. While the highlanders must start as certain favourites, the Sharks are likely to use the underdog tag to their advantage and always seem to save their best performances for games such as this when they start out all but written off.

With du Plessis back in tow – and two strong lineout locks – expect the Sharks to do much better at this phase than they have over the last few weeks. In fact, as we’ve been saying all year, the Sharks will need to build any victory on the back of a dominant forward display that has to start in the set piece. Once again, the kicking game needs to be sensible and accurate and much will depend on Fred Zeilinga’s ability to make his tactical kicks count. The Highlanders boast probably the most potent counter-attacking back three in the entire competition, so any sloppiness will be punished. It goes without saying that the defensive performance against the Bulls will need to be built on further, against a team that will ask far more difficult questions on attack.

I’m backing the Sharks to put in one of “those” performances tomorrow, with Bismarck and Marcell Coetzee ferocious at the breakdown, Renaldo Bothma and Willem Alberts dominant in the tackle and Beast and Lourens leading a dominant scrumming performance. The odds are going to be staked against them, but the Sharks are due a little luck and I’m backing them to come good this week, picking up a decent 8 point victory to get their tour off to a great start.

Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith (co-captain), 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Richard Buckman, 11 Patrick Osborne, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Nasi Manu (co-captain), 7 Dan Pryor, 6 Gareth Evans, 5 Mark Reddish, 4 Tom Franklin, 3 Josh Hohneck, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Kane Hames
Bench: 16 Ash Dixon, 17 Brendon Edmonds, 18 Pingi Tala’apitaga, 19 Joe Latta, 20 Elliot Dixon, 21 Fumiaki Tanaka, 22 Marty Banks, 23 Jason Emery

Sharks: 15. Odwa Ndungane, 14. S’bura Sithole, 13. JP Pietersen, 12. Andre Esterhuizen, 11. Lwazi Mvovo, 10. Fred Zeilinga, 9. Cobus Reinach, 8. Willem Alberts, 7. Renaldo Bothma, 6. Marcell Coetzee, 5. Marco Wentzel (captain), 4. Stephan Lewies, 3. Lourens Adriaanse, 2. Bismarck du Plessis, 1. Tendai Mtawarira
Bench: 16. Franco Marais, 17. Dale Chadwick, 18. Matt Stevens, 19. Mouritz Botha, 20. Etienne Oosthuizen, 21. Conrad Hoffmann, 22. Lionel Cronje, 23. Waylon Murray

In other games….

The Brumbies will be too strong at home for the Tahs and should win by 6.
The Blues will beat the Force by 9 in a game that’s unlikely to be worth watching.
The Hurricanes and Crusaders will play out a classic, with the 7-time champs blowing the New Zealand conference wide open with an unlikely 3-point win.
The Rebels will lose to the Chiefs, probably by 12.
The Cheetahs aren’t well-organised enough to beat the Stormers, so the the Cape side will probably pick up a 5-point win there; let’s hope for an exciting game.
The Bulls will probably pip the Lions by 2, the Loftus factor being enough to overcome the loss of a few forwards after a car crash last night. On that note, we wish Dean Greyling, Hencus van Dyk and Basil Short well as the recover from their minor injuries.


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