The Sharks are set to face the toughest test of their season thus far when they take on the Blue Bulls in Durban on Saturday, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
SHARKS vs BLUE BULLS
The Sharks have made an encouraging start to their Currie Cup campaign, with new head coach Robert du Preez advocating an attractive brand of rugby that a youthful team seems to be enjoying.
It’s seen them secure three successive bonus-point wins over the Pumas, Griquas and Boland, but this Saturday will be their first test against one of the bigger unions.
The Bulls have blown hot and cold this season, first securing an impressive win over Western Province before suffering a heavy defeat against the Cheetahs, while last weekend they battled to a hard-fought victory over the EP Kings.
However, the Sharks were also far from completely convincing against Boland, and will be fully aware that a more clinical showing will be required against a Bulls side that is equally determined to add some consistency to their play at the halfway mark of the pool stages.
Sharks – 15 Curwin Bosch, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 André Esterhuizen, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Inny Radebe, 9 Stefan Ungerer, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Keegan Daniel, 5 Ruan Botha, 4 Etienne Oosthuizen, 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Franco Marais, 1 Dale Chadwick.
Subs: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 John-Hubert Meyer, 18 JC Astle, 19 Jean Deysel, 20 Hanco Venter, 21 S'bura Sithole, 22 Rhyno Smith.
Blue Bulls – 15 Duncan Matthews, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Dries Swanepoel, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Jamba Ulengo, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Arno Botha (c), 7 Jannes Kirsten, 6 Ruan Steenkamp, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 RG Snyman, 3 Jacobie Adriaanse, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Lizo Gqoboka.
Subs: 16 Bandise Maku, 17 Martin Dreyer, 18 Nic de Jager, 19 Hanro Liebenberg, 20 André Warner, 21 Joshua Stander, 22 Ulrich Beyers.
GOLDEN LIONS vs BOLAND
The high-flying Lions were brought crashing down to earth when they suffered a shock defeat to Griquas last weekend, which snapped a 13-match Currie Cup Premier Division winning streak.
It was a lacklustre showing that’s sparked a sharp reaction from coach Johan Ackermann, who has almost completely overhauled his team for this Saturday’s encounter with Boland in Johannesburg.
The Lions did start their campaign with a resounding win over the Pumas, but the onus will now be on a new-look group to ensure the defending champs successfully bounce back from last weekend’s disappointment.
Golden Lions – 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Selom Gavor, 13 Jacques Nel, 12 Howard Mnisi (c), 11 Anthony Volmink, 10 Marnitz Boshoff, 9 Dillon Smit, 8 Ruaan Lerm, 7 Victor Sekekete, 6 Steph de Wit, 5 Martin Muller, 4 Ruan Ackermann, 3 Pieter Scholtz, 2 Ramone Samuels, 1 Corné Fourie.
Subs: 16 Robbie Coetzee, 17 Dylan Smith, 18 Bobby de Wee, 19 Cyle Brink, 20 Ross Cronjé, 21 Koch Marx, 22 JW Bell.
Boland Cavaliers – 15 Adriaan Carelse, 14 Sergio Torrens, 13 Christopher Bosch, 12 Ryan Nel, 11 Danwel Demas, 10 Theuns Kotzé, 9 Gerhard Jordaan, 8 Wayne Wilschut, 7 Shaun McDonald, 6 Shaun Adendorff, 5 Joubert Horn, 4 Hanno Kitshoff, 3 Basil Short, 2 Francois Esterhuizen, 1 Francois Hanekom.
Subs: 16 Clemen Lewis, 17 Enoch Mnyaka, 18 SP Wessels, 19 Ockie van Zyl, 20 Kenan Cronjé, 21 Marnus Hugo, 22 Gerrit van Wyk.
EP KINGS vs WESTERN PROVINCE
The Kings deserve plenty of plaudits for their gallant display against the Blue Bulls at Loftus last weekend, but they are now set to come up against a Western Province side that will be smarting after suffering back-to-back defeats.
Last year’s finalists were humbled by the Blue Bulls in the opening round of action, while they also fell short against the Cheetahs last weekend, and, in no uncertain terms, coach John Dobson has challenged his players to raise their work rate on Friday.
It could spell trouble for the Kings, who are without midfield stalwart Waylon Murray for this clash, while Western Province have been boosted by the introduction of dangermen Cheslin Kolbe and Werner Kok to the starting lineup.
EP Kings – 15 Johann Tromp, 14 Siviwe Soyizwapi, 13 JC Greyling, 12 Burton Klaasen, 11 Sampie Mastriet, 10 Kobus Marais, 9 Ricky Schroeder (c), 8 Christiaan de Bruin, 7 Etienne Oosthuizen, 6 Vince Jobo, 5 Sebastian Ferreira, 4 Tazz Fuzani, 3 Vukile Sofisa, 2 Mike Willemse, 1 Justin Forwood.
Subs: 16 Martin Bezuidenhout, 17 Barend Potgieter, 18 Dylon Pieterse, 19 Luke vd Smit, 20 Brandon Brown, 21 Lungelo Goza, 22 Ganfried May.
Western Province – 15 Cheslin Kolbe, 14 Werner Kok, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Dan du Plessis, 11 Leolin Zas, 10 Brandon Thomson, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 Jurie van Vuuren, 6 Kobus van Dyk, 5 Chris van Zyl (c), 4 JD Schickerling, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Scarra Ntubeni, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg.
Subs: 16 Neil Rautenbach, 17 Alistair Vermaak, 18 Oli Kebble, 19 Jan de Klerk, 20 Stefan Willemse, 21 Godlen Masimla, 22 Robert du Preez.
PUMAS vs GRIQUAS
This is an encounter that’s sure to battle for much attention, but it will be interesting to see whether Griquas can back up their impressive win over the Lions last weekend with another encouraging performance.
The Pumas have yet to win a game this season, but are coming off a bye week, and they certainly won’t be lacking any motivation for what is an important clash in the context of their season.
However, it’s Griquas that will come into the match riding a wave of confidence, and another good result could well reaffirm their status as darkhorse contenders for the knockout stage.
Pumas – 15 Devon Williams, 14 Bernardo Botha, 13 Hennie Skorbinski, 12 Leighton van Wyk, 11 Jean-Paul Lewis, 10 Francois Brummer, 9 Emile Temperman, 8 Renaldo Bothma (c), 7 Nardus van der Walt, 6 Marnus Schoeman, 5 Jannie Stander, 4 Wiehan Hay, 3 Louis Albertse, 2 Frank Herne, 1 De Jay Terblanche.
Subs: 16 Simon Westraadt, 17 Jacques Kotze, 18 Hugo Kloppers, 19 Carel Greeff, 20 Kevin Luiters, 21 Marlou van Niekerk, 22 Hoffmann Maritz.
Griquas – 15 AJ Coertzen (c), 14 JW Jonker, 13 Johnathan Francke, 12 Clinton Swart, 11 Alshaun Bock, 10 Elgar Watts, 9 Rudi van Rooyen, 8 Jason Fraser, 7 Sias Koen, 6 Wendal Wehr, 5 Jonathan Janse van Rensburg, 4 Mzwanele Zito, 3 Stephan Kotze, 2 AJ le Roux, 1 Steph Roberts.
Subs: 16 Marius Fourie, 17 Liam Hendricks, 18 Hilton Lobberts, 19 Steve Meiring, 20 Renier Botha, 21 André Swarts, 22 Eric Zana.
Photo: Carl Fourie/Gallo Images