CRAIG LEWIS looks ahead to the final three matches in round 10, including the highly-anticipated clash between the Sharks and Stormers.
BULLS vs REBELS (Pretoria, Saturday, 15:05)
The Bulls have been the local flavour of the week following their impressive 40-10 victory over the Sharks last Saturday, which saw them shoot up to second place in the South African conference standings.
What’s become increasingly clear is that the Bulls have added new weapons to their arsenal under the guidance of John Mitchell, who has ensured that they are no longer just a one-dimensional outfit.
With forwards such as Adriaan Strauss, Trevor Nyakane and Lood de Jager playing with a renewed purpose, the Bulls are laying a solid foundation up front for talented backs such as Handré Pollard, Jessie Kriel and Warrick Gelant to excel.
The Bulls’ lineout drive is a particularly potent weapon, and there is little doubt that they will be looking to unleash their maul against a Rebels side that has begun to lose their way in recent weeks (they’ve now lost two games in succession).
Notably, though, the Bulls head into this match with two strong openside flankers in the loose trio, with Roelof Smit and Marco van Staden set to offer a poaching double threat for this Saturday, while Shaun Adendorff will provide further fetching power off the bench.
The Bulls should look to bully the Rebels up front on Saturday, before aiming to strike the killer blows in the second half when altitude is likely to have an effect on the travel-weary team from Melbourne.
Although the Rebels are a much-improved side in 2018, the fact remains that they have yet to win a game in South Africa. One would not expect that record to change against an in-form Bulls side at their Loftus fortress.
Stats and facts
- This will be the sixth meeting between the Bulls and Rebels, with the South African side have won four of the previous five clashes.
- The Rebels have never won in South Africa (drawn one, lost 12), failing to score a try in their last two such fixtures.
- The Bulls’ last three home games against Australian sides have seen a total of 28 tries scored, crossing for 17 themselves and conceding 11.
- Amanaki Mafi is the only player to make over 100 carries so far (101). He has also made the most metres of any forward (574, second most overall).
Bulls – 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Johnny Kötze, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Burger Odendaal (c), 11 Divan Rossouw, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Ivan van Zyl, 8 Marco van Staden, 7 Thembelani Bholi, 6 Roelof Smit , 5 Lood de Jager, 4 RG Snyman, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Pierre Schoeman.
Subs: 16 Jaco Visagie, 17 Lizo Gqoboka, 18 Frans van Wyk, 19 Jason Jenkins, 20 Shaun Adendorff, 21 André Warner, 22 Manie Libbok, 23 Duncan Matthews.
Rebels – 15 Dane Haylett-Petty, 14 Jack Maddocks, 13 Tom English, 12 Reece Hodge, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Jack Debreczeni, 9 Michael Ruru, 8 Amanaki Mafi, 7 Angus Cottrell, 6 Ross Haylett-Petty, 5 Adam Coleman (c), 4 Matt Philip, 3 Sam Talakai, 2 Anaru Rangi, 1 Tetera Faulkner.
Subs: 16 Jordan Uelese, 17 Fereti Sa’aga, 18 Jermaine Ainsley, 19 Geoff Parling, 20 Richard Hardwick, 21 Harrison Goddard, 22 Billy Meakes, 23 Sefa Naivalu.
SHARKS vs STORMERS (Durban, Saturday, 17:15)
In a matter of weeks, the Bulls have effectively piled the pressure on both the Stormers and Sharks by claiming respective wins over the two coastal teams.
These results have seen the Bulls climb above the Stormers and Sharks, and suddenly it seems as if the side that comes off second best at Kings Park could be flirting with also-ran status for another season.
The Sharks will be looking to produce the sort of ‘angry’ response that followed their heavy loss to the Rebels in Melbourne (they next beat the Blues 63-40), while the Stormers have had a bye week to work out where things have gone wrong recently.
Notably, the Sharks have made some key changes for this clash as both Cameron Wright and Makazole Mapimpi earn overdue starts in the backline, while Dan du Preez makes his first appearance of the season in the No 8 jersey. However, the continued absence of veteran prop Beast Mtawarira is a massive blow.
Meanwhile, the Stormers have been boosted by the return of Dewaldt Duvenage at scrumhalf, while the athletic Sikhumbuzo Notshe should bring a different dynamic to the back row.
It all points to what should be a highly-competitive affair in Durban, although the Sharks will draw some confidence from the fact that they’ve won their last three games against the Stormers.
Yet there is little doubt that the Cape-based side will look to target the Sharks at scrum time (they boast a 92% success rate compared to just 82%), and it could well be a decisive area of the game.
It will also be interesting to see whether the Stormers look to take a leaf out of the Bulls’ playbook from last weekend, which focused on nullifying the Sharks’ ball-carrying threats and then forcing the Durbanites to chase the game.
The Sharks’ focus will be on achieving parity up front and providing a steady platform for the Du Preez twins to impose their physicality, while Wright will be instructed to provide quick and efficient service to allow the third Du Preez brother, Rob, to have more time on the ball.
What the Bulls did well last weekend was to pressure the Sharks with high-paced defence, and so achieving gainline dominance will be key if the hosts are to get their attack and offloading game working once again.
Quite simply, this is the sort of encounter where you pick a winner at your peril, although home-ground advantage really should give the Sharks an edge.
Stats and facts
- The Sharks have won their last three games against the Stormers; the last and only time they won more against them was a five-game streak from 2006 to 2010.
- The Sharks have lost seven of their last eight South African derbies. However, the one victory in that time did come against the Stormers.
- The Sharks have won an average of just 5.6 turnovers per game so far, the fewest of any side.
- Rob du Preez has the best goal-kicking success rate of any player to land 10-plus goals this season (88%).
- Jean-Luc du Preez has made 16 offloads so far, three more than any other player.
Sharks – 15 Curwin Bosch, 14 Sbu Nkosi, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 André Esterhuizen, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Rob du Preez, 9 Cameron Wright, 8 Dan du Preez, 7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Philip van der Walt, 5 Stephan Lewies, 4 Ruan Botha (c), 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Juan Schoeman.
Subs: 16 Akker van der Merwe, 17 Mzamo Majola, 18 Ross Geldenhuys, 19 Tyler Paul, 20 Jacques Vermeulen, 21 Louis Schreuder, 22 Marius Louw, 23 Lwazi Mvovo.
Stormers – 15 Dillyn Leyds, 14 Craig Barry 13 EW Viljoen, 12 Damian De Allende, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Damian Willemse, 9 Dewaldt Duvenge, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (c), 5 Chris van Zyl, 4 Jan de Klerk, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Ramone Samuels, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Subs: 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 JC Janse van Rensburg, 18 Carlu Sadie, 19 Kobus van Dyk, 20 Nizaam Carr, 21 Paul de Wet, 22 SP Marais, 23 JJ Engelbrecht.
BRUMBIES vs JAGUARES (Canberra, Sunday, 08:05)
The Brumbies desperately need a victory if they are to remain in the mix for Australian conference honours, with the Canberra-based side currently trailing the first-placed Waratahs by as many as 10 points.
However, the Brumbies should see the visit from the Jaguares as an opportunity to return to winning ways, and they will be looking to target the Argentinian team at the set pieces (their scrum and lineout success rate hovers around just 80%).
The Jaguares are coming off a morale-boosting win over the Rebels, and they will be looking to once again adopt a fearless approach in a match where they must still be regarded as underdogs.
Stats and facts
- The Brumbies picked up a 39-15 win when they visited the Jaguares in round 14 last season, which was the only previous encounter between these teams.
- The Brumbies are aiming to win back-to-back home games for the first time since winning their final four regular-season home games of the 2016 season.
- The Jaguares have won three of their last five away games, all those fixtures coming in Australia.
- The Jaguares have the lowest scrum success rate (80%) in the competition this season and the second-lowest lineout success rate (79%).
- No player has made more tackles than Pablo Matera in 2018 (93).
Brumbies – TBC
Jaguares – TBC
Photo: Gerhard Duraan/BackpagePix