Preview: Sharks v Lions

Date published: February 20 2015

Bolstered by the return of their captain, Bismarck du Plessis, the Sharks will be eager to secure their first win of the season when they host the Lions in Durban on Saturday.

Both sides head into the contest following defeats in their respective opening round matches resulting in the Stormers taking the early lead in the South African conference following their triumph against the Bulls in Pretoria.

While the Lions struggled to convert superior possession and territory into points in their match against an All Black loaded Hurricanes outfit, the Sharks were out-classed by a Cheetahs sidethat showed great composure in defence.

The Sharks only started playing to their true potential late in the second half as they were unbable to settle into a pattern that best suited their strengths. The men from Durban stand to lose more ground on the conference leaders if they again fail to fire from the start.

Looking ahead to this match, Gary Gold’s men would have been reminded that they have not lost to the Lions at home in their last eight outings.

The Lions have just three away wins to show from 24 attempts and last tasted victory in Durban while still playing as the Cats in 2000.

Sharks captain Bismarck Du Plessis: "If you look at stats, we should have won last week, so too the Lions. I don't think you should look at stats to determine how efficient you are. Our execution and intensity wasn't up to standard on the weekend, but we still back our system 100 percent. We look forward to the challenge that's going to come our way on Saturday."

Lions captain Warren Whiteley: "Bismarck brings a different dimension to the breakdown and he brings good leadership to the side as well. They are going to be a better side than they were last week and we know we'll have to be better, too, to be able to compete."

Last time out: The Sharks returned to the top of the Super Rugby standings after they beat the Lions 25-12 in Johannesburg but they did not have the match wrapped-up until the final quarter. Composure played a huge roll in their victory and will again be a factor this week.

Players to watch: Patrick Lambie was pure class last week and should again play a central role for the Sharks. Equally, Marcel Coetzee kept the engine room firing while there will be no doubt the influence of Bismarck du Plessis will be noticed. The Lions need Whiteley to inspire those around him while it will be interesting to see how Robbie Coetzee performs at hooker against the man he has been compared to.

Team news: The Sharks will be without Tendai Mtawarira who is replaced by Dale Chadwick who will join the returning Du Plessis in the front-row. Lubabalo Mtyanda will make his debut at lock. For the Lions, Warrick Tecklenburg will get a start after Jaco Kriel was ruled out through injury. In the only other change Jacques van Rooyen comes in at loose-head for Schalk van der Merwe.

Form: Winless after the first round the Sharks should take some heart from the solid finish they produced against the Cheetahs. Although far from the finished produced, there were glimpses of their star quality. The Lions will have to work on their composure that was lacking in their match against the Hurricanes.

Predictions: The Sharks are again adapting to a new coach who has new ideals and stand the risk to again be upset by a less experienced outfit if they fail to stick to one set game plan. The Lions will come at them with everything, but even that may not be enough. The Sharks should win by 9 points or more.

Previous results:
2014: Sharks won 25-12 in Johannesburg
2014: Sharks won 37-23 in Durban
2012: Lions won 38-28 in Johannesburg
2012: Sharks won 32-10 in Durban
2011: Sharks and Lions drew 30-30 in Johannesburg

The teams:

Sharks: 15 SP Marais, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Waylon Murray, 12 Heimar Williams, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Patrick Lambie, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Tera Mtembu, 7 Renaldo Bothma, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Lubabalo Mtyanda, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis (c), 1 Dale Chadwick.
Replacements: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Thomas du Toit, 18 Matt Stevens, 19 Marco Wentzel, 20 Jean Deysel, 21 Conrad Hoffmann, 22 Fred Zeilinga, 23 Andre Esterhuizen.

Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Howard Mnisi, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Marnitz Boshoff, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Warren Whiteley (c), 7 Warwick Tecklenburg, 6 Derick Minnie, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Martin Muller, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1. Jacques van Rooyen.
Replacements:16 Robbie Coetzee, 17 Schalk van der Merwe, 18 Julian Redelinghuys, 19 JP du Preez, 20 Ruaan Lerm, 21 Faf de Klerk, 22 Elton Jantjies, 23 Harold Vorster.

Date: Saturday, February 21
Venue: Kings Park, Durban
Kick-off: 19:10 local (17:10 GMT)
Referee: Rohan Hoffmann (Australia)
Assistant Referees:Andrew Lees (Australia), Stuart Berry (South Africa)