Preview: Sharks v Chiefs

Date published: March 20 2015

So desperate are the Sharks to end a five-game losing streak against the Chiefs, they have defied a request from South African Rugby Union to rest key Springboks.

SARU announced in February that they had reached an agreement with the five South African Super Rugby franchises that they would not select certain players for more than five matches in a row.

They agreement is not legally binding, however, and Sharks boss Gary Gold has defended his decision to start flank Marcell Coetzee, fly-half Patrick Lambie and scrum-half Cobus Reinach for a sixth match straight by highlighting that, unlike other SA teams, the Sharks do not have a bye until week 11.

"We are committed to resting the players, but it has become a juggling act this week because we haven’t been given a bye. As of last week, we were the only franchise to rest any Springboks early on," said Gold.

SARU CEO Jurie Roux said while teams were encouraged to rest players, he understood that coaches also had a job to do in the best interests of their own teams.

“The players are primarily the assets of the Unions and they will have their different dynamics and needs at different stages of the season," Roux said in a statement.

"If franchises feel they are unable to stick to the letter of the understanding that is less than ideal but we would expect them to stick as close to it as possible in the interests of the Springboks."

With the form shown by the Chiefs so far, it's not surprising that Gold wants to pick his strongest side. The Sharks have not beaten the Chiefs since 2009 and can ill-afford to lose another game at home having been upset at Kings Park by the Cheetahs in Round one. In their last two home matches against the Chiefs – in 2010 and 2012 – the Sharks failed to score any tries.

After their impressive win over the previously unbeaten Stormers in Cape Town last Saturday, the Chiefs are aiming to win on consecutive weekends in South Africa for the third time, something they last managed in 2012.

The Sharks would have noted the Chiefs' struggles at scrum time last week and will look to their all-Springbok front row to lay a platform. Jamie Mackintosh made a huge difference to the Chiefs set piece when he came off the bench last week so it's unsurprising that coach Dave Rennie has named him in the starting XV for Saturday.

Set piece trouble or not, the Hamilton-based side are sure to play exciting rugby. The two-time champions have averaged the most offloads per game (18) this season and their ability to create try-scoring opportunities from nowhere on the counter attack has been the cornerstone of their success in recent years.

"The Chiefs are a championship outfit with outstanding strength and depth and they will go into this match as favourites," said Gold.

"They have a strong pack of forwards and one of the most exciting backlines in the competition and are well coached. We look forward to the challenge of measuring ourselves against one of the most dangerous sides. It's going to be an exciting match-up."

The last time these team met:  The Sharks and Chiefs did not play each other last year but back in 2013 the Chiefs won 37-29 in Hamilton, outscoring the visitors four tries to three with Tim Nanai-Williams bagging a double.

Players to watch: Look out for new Chiefs centre Seta Tamanivalu, who was brilliant for Taranaki in the ITM Cup last year and was named the tournament's Player of the Year after helping his side to the title. Sharks flank Marcell Coetzee is the joint-top try scorer this season, and the top-scoring forward after crossing the whitewash four times in five games. Chiefs wing James Lowe has made the most clean breaks (11) in Super Rugby this season. Nobody else has hit double figures yet.

Team news: There is just one enforced change to the Sharks starting line-up as Marco Wentzel comes into the second-row to replace the injured Pieter-Steph du Toit, who has been Super Rugby’s top lineout winner this season. The Chiefs have made four changes with Sonny Bill Williams the most notable absentee. Tamanivalu and Andrew Horrell form a new midfield partnership with Nanai-Williams also ruled out. In the front row, Mackintosh and Siate Tokolahi are drafted into the starting lineup.

Form: The Sharks have won just twice in five games this year, but were in good form as they claimed a four-try bonus point in last week's 27-10 win away to the Cheetahs. The Chiefs have won four from five this season and are coming off the back of a 28-19 win over SA Conference-leading Stormers.

Predictions: The Sharks' record against the Chiefs is not a good one, but the visitors will be missing two key players  from midfield. Nevertheless, the Chiefs look like genuine title contenders while the Sharks have failed to convince. Chiefs by less than seven points.

Previous results:
2013: Chiefs won 37-29 in Hamilton
2012: Chiefs won 37- 6 in Hamilton
2012: Chiefs won 18-12 in Durban
2011: Chiefs won 15-9 in Hamilton
2010: Chiefs won 19-18 in Durban

The teams:

Sharks:15 SP Marais, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 JP Pietersen, 12 Francois Steyn, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Patrick Lambie, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Renaldo Bothma, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Marco Wentzel, 4 Mouritz Botha, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis (c), 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Dale Chadwick, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 Lubabalo Mtyanda, 20 Daniel du Preez, 21 Conrad Hoffmann, 22 Andre Esterhuizen, 23 Waylon Murray.

Chiefs: 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Bryce Heem, 13 Seta Tamanivalu, 12 Andrew Horrell, 11 James Lowe, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Brad Weber, 8 Michael Leitch, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Messam (c), 5 Michael Fitzgerald, 4 Matt Symons, 3 Siate Tokolahi, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Jamie Mackintsoh
Replacements: 16 Rhys Marshall, 17 Ben Tameifuna, 18 Mitchell Graham, 19 Michael Allardice, 20 Johan Bardoul, 21 Augustine Pulu, 22 Tom Marshall, 23 Hosea Gear

Date: Saturday, March 21
Kick-off: 19:10 local (17.10 GMT, 06.10 NZST, 04.10 AEST)
Venue: Kings Park
Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)
Assistant referees: Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa), Cwengile Jadezweni (South Africa)
Television match official: Marius Jonker (South Africa)