Ryan Kankowski must use the Sharks' dominance up front to make his mark against the Force in Durban on Saturday, writes BRENTON CHELIN.
The less said about the Sharks' ill-tempered scrap with the Chiefs the better. The Sharks need to move onwards and upwards, starting with a commanding victory over the Force at Kings Park.
The Australian outfit came into their match with the Vodacom Bulls on the back of four successive defeats, and almost made off with a victory. The Bulls, as is often the case with teams coming off a bye week, were slow to get going.
The Sharks will have no such problem as they head into their seventh-consecutive match. Kankowski missed the first two weeks of the season, before returning from Japan ahead of the clash with the Bulls at Loftus.
He has started every match since at No 8, making marginal improvements as he adapts to the faster-paced game of Vodacom Super Rugby. Conditions haven't been conducive to his particular brand of eighthman play, but with a cool, dry day expected on Saturday, he should be allowed to express himself freely.
Even without the suspended Bismarck du Plessis, the Sharks will be expected to control proceedings against the weakest scrum in the competition, laying a platform for Kankowski to attack.
The Sharks have been forced to make a number of changes to their side in line with Saru's request to rest Springbok players. Cobus Reinach, Pat Lambie and Marcell Coetzee will all sit this one out, while Du Plessis will start his four-week suspension.
Frans Steyn has been handed the No 10 jersey in Lambie's absence, while André Esterhuizen comes in to partner JP Pietersen in the midfield. Up front, Jean Deysel slots in on the side of the scrum and will take over the captaincy, while Kyle Cooper starts at hooker, with Monde Hadebe coming onto the replacements bench.
Meanwhile, the Force have named an unchanged side from the one that fell narrowly to the Bulls. The only change comes on the bench, where Dane Haylett-Petty replaces Solomoni Junior Rasolea.
The Sharks have secured the four-try bonus point on two occasions this season – against the Lions and the Cheetahs. In both instances, it was their forward domination and rolling maul that got them across the line.
Failure to assert their dominance in the form of a four-try bonus point cost them dearly last season as they finished a point behind the Crusaders in third position. With tough home matches against the Bulls and the Crusaders on the horizon, they need to take a full haul of log points against the Force, and Kankowski might be just the man to unlock their attacking potential.
HEAD TO HEAD
Overall: Sharks 7 Force 1
In Durban: Sharks 4, Force 0
STATS AND FACTS
– The Sharks’ six-match winning streak against the Force is their current second-best winning streak against a single opponent.
– The Force have taken a losing bonus point in two of their four trips to Durban.
– The Sharks (84%) have the worst tackling success rate in the competition, while the Force tackle at just 85%.
– The Force have averaged the fewest lineout steals (0.3), while the Sharks have come up with the most (2.2 average).
– The Force have the worst scrum success rate in the competition (73%).
|Team||Top point-scorer||Top try-scorer||Most metres gained||Most tackles|
|Sharks||Pat Lambie (90)||Marcell Coetzee (4)||SP Marais (418)||Macell Coetzee (68)|
|Force||Sias Ebersohn, Luke Burton (16)||Alby Mathewson, Angus Cottrell, Chris Alcock, Francois van Wyk, Luke Morahan, Mitchell Scott, Steve Mafi, Tetera Faulkner, Adam Coleman, Sam Wykes, Kyle Godwin (1)||Zack Holmes (221)||Ben McCalman, Kyle Godwin (51)|
Sharks – 15 SP Marais, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 JP Pietersen, 12 André Esterhuizen, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Frans Steyn, 9 Conrad Hoffman, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Jean Deysel (c), 6 Renaldo Bothma, 5 Marco Wentzel, 4 Mouritz Botha, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Kyle Cooper, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Subs: 16 Monde Hadebe, 17 Thomas du Toit, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 Lubabalo Mtyanda, 20 Daniel du Preez, 21 Stefan Ungerer, 22 Fred Zeilinga, 23 Waylon Murray.
Force – 15 Luke Morahan, 14 Marcel Brache, 13 Kyle Godwin, 12 Luke Burton, 11 Nick Cummins, 10 Sias Ebersohn, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 Kane Koteka, 6 Steve Mafi, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Sam Wykes (c), 3 Tetera Faulkner, 2 Nathan Charles, 1 Pekahou Cowan.
Subs: 16 Heath Tessmann, 17 Chris Heiberg, 18 Oliver Hoskins, 19 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 20 Angus Cottrell, 21 Ian Prior, 22 Zack Holmes, 23 Dane Haylett-Petty.
The Money Man's betting tips (to come)
Photo: Lee Warren/Gallo Images