Preview: Reds v Sharks

Date published: May 21 2015

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On the back of a six-game losing streak in Super Rugby, it's likely a fixture with the Reds could be just what the doctor ordered for the Sharks on Friday.

Seven of this pair's last nine meetings have been won by the Durban franchise so one gets the feeling this could be their chance to stop the rot.

Gary Gold's men, who have improved in recent weeks despite not sealing a win, will fancy their chances up front thanks to a physical front-row and back-row. The question is whether their half-back combination can create enough whilst stopping the threat posed by the Reds backs.

Such home threats come via a rejuvenated Will Genia and James O'Connor after victory over the Rebels while Liam Gill continues to impress on the flank alongside Adam Thomson. These are four players the Sharks simply must stifle if they're to avoid a catastrophic tenth loss in 2015.

Looking back to pre-season, the Reds were tipped to challenge for top spot in Australia. But then came the loss of Quade Cooper to injury and dire form of one win in their first eight, which put paid to any hopes of making the knockout stages. What they can do on Friday, however, is move level on points with the eleventh-placed Sharks. Lose and they could return to the basement this weekend. How cruel this competition can be.

The last time these teams met: It was Round 5 last year when the pair last clashed and the Sharks were too strong on that day, winning 35-20 in Durban thanks to tries from Willem Alberts and Dale Chadwick. Patrick Lambie (19) and Francois Steyn (6) contributing off the kicking tee. The Reds try-scorers were Mike Harris and Will Genia while the currently injured Quade Cooper added 10 points for his side in a losing cause.

Players to watch: It was good to see Will Genia recapture somewhere near his best form last week and he will hope to build on that alongside young up-and-comer Jake McIntyre. Genia took greater ownership of the Reds' territorial game against the Rebels and he will need to do that again this week, putting the ball behind the Sharks wingers and also moving Lwazi Mvovo around in a somewhat unfamiliar full-back position.

For the Sharks it is always wise to watch for their driving maul and that means two men, Marcell Coetzee and Bismarck du Plessis, the former being desperately unfortunately to have a try chalked off against the Hurricanes a fortnight ago. If that goes well, the Reds are in trouble.

Team news: Reds head coach Richard Graham has made one change to his matchday squad as wing Lachie Turner is replaced by Chris Kuridrani due to concussion. Meanwhile, Gary Gold has also made one change to his line-up, as Tendai Mtawarira returns in place of the benched Dale Chadwick.

Form: The Reds secured a much-needed bonus-point win over the Rebels last week, which came somewhat as a shock in its fashion as the in-form Rebels were brushed aside in a 46-29 victory. Getting their home supporters smiling again – and hopefully more coming through the turnstiles – is a must for the Brisbane franchise after four home losses thus far. So last Friday's result should put more bums on seats.

Likewise the Sharks have been suffering this season as they endure a six-game losing streak in the competition, the latest defeat coming at the Waratahs. While they have improved over the last fortnight in terms of performance, a win would be like gold to the side from Durban as they sit in eleventh position in the standings. Possibly more concerning is the fact they are just one point off bottom spot in South Africa.

Prediction: While the Reds impressed in victory over the Rebels, this visiting pack could prove too strong in Brisbane. Sharks by 5 points!

Previous results:

2014: Sharks won 35-20 in Durban
2013: Reds won 32-17 in Brisbane
2012: Sharks won 30-17 in Brisbane
2012: Sharks won 27-22 in Durban
2010: Sharks won 30-28 in Durban

The teams:

Reds: 15 James O'Connor, 14 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 13 Karmichael Hunt, 12 Samu Kerevi, 11 Chris Kuridrani, 10 Jake McIntyre, 9 Will Genia, 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Liam Gill, 6 Adam Thomson, 5 James Horwill, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 James Hanson, 1 James Slipper (c).
Replacements: 16 Andrew Ready, 17 Pettowa Paraka, 18 Sam Talakai, 19 Ed O'Donoghue, 20 Lolo Fakaosilea, 21 Nick Frisby, 22 Sam Greene, 23 Ben Tapuai.

Sharks: 15 Lwazi Mvovo, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 JP Pietersen, 12 Frans Steyn, 11 S'bura Sithole, 10 Lionel Cronje, 9 Stefan Ungerer, 8 Renaldo Bothma, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Marco Wentzel (c), 4 Stephan Lewies, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Franco Marais, 17 Dale Chadwick, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 Mouritz Botha, 20 Etienne Oosthuizen, 21 Conrad Hoffmann, 22 Fred Zeilinga, 23 Andre Esterhuizen.

Date: Friday, May 22
Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Kick-off: 19:40 local (21:40 NZST, 11:40 SAST, 09:40 GMT)
Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)
Assistant Referees: Matt O'Brien (Australia), Damien Mitchelmore (Australia)
TMO: Peter Marshall (Australia)

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