Bismarck du Plessis will lend the Sharks some much needed grunt in a match-shaping breakdown battle against the Rebels in Melbourne this Friday.
The Sharks were well beaten by the Highlanders at Kings Park last Saturday. They lost the collisions as well as the scrap on the floor, and thus allowed the visitors to generate plenty of attacking momentum.
The return of their captain this Friday should witness an improvement. Du Plessis has featured prominently as a ball-carrier this season, and has a reputation for crossing the gainline. While he wears a No 2 on his back, he is also an accomplished fetcher, and is capable of making some important defensive steals at the breakdown.
The Rebels may be languishing in the bottom third of the Vodacom Super Rugby log, but they have managed to push some of the best teams close via an aggressive breakdown approach. The Sharks will need Du Plessis, and indeed all of their big-name Springbok forwards, to be at their combative best if they're to come away with an important win.
Frans Steyn will start at flyhalf for the Sharks in one of a number of changes made by Jake White. Heimar Williams and Paul Jordaan will make up a new centre-pairing, while Odwa Ndungane will return on the right wing. In the forwards, Du Plessis and Jean Deysel both return from injury, while Ryan Kankowski and Keegan Daniel rotate once again, with the latter playing off the bench.
Meanwhile, the Rebels have made two changes, with scrumhalf Luke Burgess and loosehead prop Cruze Ah-Nau coming into the starting XV.
The Sharks have racked up 98 points in their two matches against the Rebels (both wins). In fact, the Sharks’ 64-7 win over the Melbourne side in March last year was their record Super Rugby win since 2006. It was also the Rebels’ heaviest defeat with regards to points difference.
HEAD TO HEAD
Overall: Rebels 2, Sharks 0
In Melbourne: Rebels 0, Sharks 1
DU PLESSIS'S STATS THAT MATTER
11 – The number of turnovers he's made this season (Rank 7)
Source: Vodacom Stats App
Rebels – 15 Jason Woodward, 14 Male Sau, 13 Tamati Ellison, 12 Mitch Inman, 11 Tom English, 10 Bryce Hegarty, 9 Luke Burgess, 8 Scott Higginbotham (c), 7 Scott Fuglistaller, 6 Colby Fainga'a, 5 Luke Jones, 4 Cadeyrn Neville, 3 Laurie Weeks, 2 Shota Horie, 1 Cruze Ah-Nau.
Subs: 16 Pat Leafa, 17 Max Lahiff,18 Paul Alo-Emilie, 19 Hugh Pyle, 20 Sean McMahon, 21 Nic Stirzaker, 22 Tom Kingston, 23 Angus Roberts.
Sharks – 15 Lwazi Mvovo, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Paul Jordaan, 12 Heimar Williams, 11 JP Pietersen, 10 Frans Steyn, 9 Charl McLeod, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Jean Deysel, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Stephan Lewies, 4 Willem Alberts, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis (c), 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Subs: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Dale Chadwick, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 Etienne Oosthuizen, 20 Keegan Daniel, 21 Cobus Reinach, 22 Fred Zeilinga, 23 SP Marais.
Photo: Barry Aldworth/BackpagePix