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Super Rugby 2015: Round 13

Written by Rob Otto (robdylan)

Posted in :Original Content, Sharks, Super Rugby on 7 May 2015 at 12:22
Tagged with : , , ,

They say the number 13 is lucky for some, but the question for Sharks fans is whether we’ll finally see a bit of luck go the way of our team in what is arguably their toughest challenge to date in a so-far very challenging season.

Hurricanes v Sharks (Saturday 09h35)

Let’s see – we can do this the easy or the hard way. The easy way is, well, easy. The Hurricanes are top of the combined log, with nine wins from 10 starts. The Sharks have played 11 games, winning only four of them. What’s more, they have already conceded an aggregate 100 points to two Kiwi teams lower on the log than these Hurricanes, with their most recent result a 48-15 thrashing in Dunedin a week ago.

Add to that the fact that they’re now down to arguably their third halfback pairing (with both players starting for the first time in this competition) and all the signs point to a very big win indeed for the Hurricanes.

That would be that, if it weren’t for a few factors working against the easy prediction. The Canes themselves are weaker this week too, and also come into the game without the halfback pairing that has been their mainstay so far this season. Beauden Barrett is out injured, and TJ Perenara rested, as is danger man Julian Savea; while the Canes still boast a back division capable of tearing the Sharks to shreds, one has to argue that with three such big names missing, they do look just that bit less formidable this week.

On the flip side, the Sharks arguably boast a better backline this week. Frans Steyn will add some defensive steel at 12 after the Andre Esterhuizen horror show of the last few weeks, while Lwazi Mvovo is sure to offer more of an attacking threat at fullback. Lionel Cronje is an unknown entity at flyhalf, but should look to attack more with ball in hand, while Stefan Ungerer is an exciting young player whose time seems to have come at last. Some reason for just a little positivity, even if the odds remain heavily stacked.

It’s up front where the hope lies, of course and the Sharks do boast the sort of pack that you’d expect would have the upper hand. Pace in the loose trio is a concern and Etienne Oosthuizen will need to tighten up on defence, but if the side opts to play the right way they could hopefully starve the Hurricanes of the ball they’ll need to do much damage. When the Sharks managed to keep things tight against the Highlanders, they looked better, but protection of the ball is key since a lone Sharks ball carrier conceding a turnover was far too common a sight last week.

Hope springs eternal and with a clever approach that involves keeping the ball and grinding away for 80 minutes, the Sharks could shock here. I’m unfortunately not brave enough to back them to actually win, but I don’t think it will be as bad as last week. Hurricanes to win by 6 points.

Hurricanes: 15 Nehe Milner-Skudder, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith (captain), 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Matt Proctor, 10 James Marshall, 9 Chris Smylie, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Blade Thomson, 5 James Broadhurst, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Ben Franks, 2 Motu Matu’u, 1 Chris Eves.
Replacements: 16 Brayden Mitchell, 17 Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 18 Reggie Goodes, 19 Callum Gibbins, 20 Brad Shields, 21 Frae Wilson, 22 Otere Black, 23 Rey Lee-Lo.

Sharks: 15 Lwazi Mvovo, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 JP Pietersen, 12 Francois Steyn, 11 Sibusiso Sithole, 10 Lionel Cronje, 9 Stefan Ungerer, 8 Renaldo Bothma, 7 Etienne Oosthuizen, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Marco Wentzel (Captain), 4 Stephan Lewies, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Franco Marais, 17 Dale Chadwick, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 Mouritz Botha, 20 Kyle Cooper, 21 Conrad Hoffmann, 22 Andre Esterhuizen, 23 Waylon Murray.

In other games:

The Crusaders will beat the Reds by 15.
The Rebels will beat the Blues by 7.
The Waratahs will take the Force by 3 in a scrappy game.
The Lions will pip the Highlanders by 1 in a very high-scoring game.
The Stormers will bounce back and record a 5-point win over the Brumbies.


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