The physicality as well as the footwork of the respective No 13s will influence the outcome of the gainline battle at Kings Park, writes JON CARDINELLI.
Should JP Pietersen be starting this Saturday? The Springbok utility back clashed heads with Stormers hardman Duane Vermeulen at Newlands last week. There were fears that Pietersen was concussed, and that he would miss the qualifying play-off against the Highlanders.
Pietersen has been cleared to play this week, but one wonders if that blow will have any effect on his appetite for contact. The Sharks need Pietersen to be at his physical best if they are going to make inroads into the Highlanders defence. They also need Pietersen using all of his experience, not to mention his powerful frame, to repel the likes of Malakai Fekitoa when the Highlanders are in possession.
Fekitoa has been one of the standout performers in Vodacom Super Rugby this season, and has already been rewarded with an All Blacks call-up. The 99kg centre has the power to breach even the best defences, while his speed and vision have proved his game breaking assets when the Highlanders have counter-attacked.
Much will depend on the performance of the respective packs. If the Sharks manage to overpower the Highlanders at the set pieces, and stifle the visitors at the breakdown, it will ensure that Fekitoa's attacking threat is blunted.
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