Preview: Sharks v Bulls

Date published: May 24 2013

The Sharks may be enjoying some home comforts after a long tour, but they're unlikely to enjoy a win on their return to Durban.

The Sharks may be enjoying some home comforts after a long tour, but they're unlikely to enjoy a win on their return to Durban.

John Plumtree's men rounded off their overseas tour with a victory over the Force last time out and while the four points will serve as some reward for a bruising tour, the Sharks were once again left counting their injured after the encounter.

JP Pietersen, who has been one of the Sharks' standout performers, was the casualty of the week, with the Springbok forced to go under the knife due to a groin injury.

The absence of Pietersen stymies the Sharks backline somewhat. Fly-half Pat Lambie has enjoyed a solid yet unspectacular campaign, with Meyer Bosman outside him perhaps more impressive. Inside of Lambie, Charl McLeod would be an unlikely starter if Cobus Reinach was not sidelined and outside of Bosman, Piet Lindeque will not be expected by many to spark the backline into life.

Traditionally against the Bulls one would consider the backs to be the area where the Sharks perhaps have the edge but even without the injured Jan Serfontein, the Bulls don't look too shabby from 9 to fifteen.

This will put even more pressure on the Sharks pack to meet their opposition head on and they're more than capable of doing so, especially with Tendai Mtawarira back in the mix.

Having eventually snapped their five-match losing streak last week, the Sharks desperately need to continue on the winning march and there were a few sparks in Perth that suggests that a consistent performance may not be too far away but their next opponents are not one whom you would like to meet when under-cooked.

While the Sharks are stuck in somewhat of a rut, the Bulls appear to be going from strength to strength as they head to Durban having won all five games since their bye week at the beginning of April.

The fact that three of those victories came with an accompanying four-try bonus point serves as an indicator that Frans Ludeke is building a multi-facetted side, with the class of 2012 managing to score four or more tries on six occasions last year and just three the season before.

There is no doubting that the Bulls still play to their traditional strengths though, and why not? With Morne Steyn's boot and a strong forward pack doing the business time and time again.

As is always the case when Steyn is on the park, discipline will be key for the Sharks, but even more so will be eliminating the silly errors and plain old poor execution that has seen them struggle for momentum. On this score the Bulls will feel that a strong start may be enough to subdue their hosts, with a blow to the Sharks confidence perhaps not too hard to deliver at this stage.

Prediction: The Bulls won't underestimate the Sharks despite their injury woes and the Sharks will be eager to make a mark on their return home. Unfortunately for Plumtree's men they're unlikely to have enough in the tank. Bulls by 7.

Sharks: 15 Riaan Viljoen, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Piet Lindeque, 12 Meyer Bosman, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Patrick Lambie, 9 Charl McLeod, 8 Keegan Daniel (capt), 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Kyle Cooper, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Monde Hadebe, 17 Wiehahn Herbst, 18 Jandre Marais, 19 Jean Deysel, 20 Tera Mtembu, 21 Tian Meyer, 22 Sean Robinson.

Bulls: 15 Jurgen Visser, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Morne Steyn, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Pierre Spies (c), 7 Dewald Potgieter, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Juandre Kruger, 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Dean Greyling.
Replacements: 16 Willie Wepener, 17 Frik Kirsten, 18 Grant Hattingh, 19 Arno Botha, 20 Jano Vermaak, 21 Louis Fouche/Jan Serfontein, 22 Lionel Mapoe.

Date: Saturday, May 25
Venue: Kings Park, Durban
Kick-off: 19.10 (17.10 GMT)
Referee: Jonathan Kaplan (South Africa)