Preview: Sharks v Pumas

Date published: September 4 2015

The Sharks will be out for revenge when they take on the Pumas in their Currie Cup clash in Durban on Friday.

Although the Pumas are breathing down the Sharks' neck on the table – the Sharks have nine points after four matches while the men from Nelspruit are a point adrift – the Nelspruit-based outfit picked up a deserved 33-24 victory when these sides met in the corresponding fixture in Round One. 

Although that victory was something of a shock, the Pumas are a tough prospect at home and were able to use continuity following their Vodacom Cup success to overcome a new-look Sharks side, minus many players.

But that was a month ago and the Sharks have been able to build continuity and develop partnerships and combinations and they will be looking for a growth in improvement as well as home ground advantage to get the better of their visitors.

The Sharks director of rugby Gary Gold believes outmuscling the Pumas will help his side in their quest for victory. 

“Physicality is going to be a critical element against the Pumas," he said.

"They are not a massively elaborate team, but what they do, they do well.”

Last weekend, the Sharks secured a hard-fought 24-20 victory over the Eastern Province Kings in Port Elizabeth. The Kings are the only side that they have beaten this season after also claiming a narrow win over them in Round Two.

The Pumas have received a shot in the arm with the inclusion of Springbok tighthead prop Vincent Koch, who returns to Currie Cup action after missing out selection for the Boks' Rugby World Cup campaign.

Coach MJ Mentz drafted Koch into the starting front row, which means Khwezi Mona drops down to the bench. 

Prolific try scoring flank Marnus Schoeman is rotated with Jaco Brouwer, who will run on in the number six jersey. Hoffman Maritz comes in as outside centre and Jerome Pretorius shifts to the bench.

The Pumas will be keen to return to the victory trail after suffering a humiliating 41-11 defeat to the Golden Lions in Nelspruit last weekend.

Prediction: Although the Sharks are yet to convince after two victories, home ground advantage will prove decisive in a close encounter. Sharks to win by three points!

The teams:

Sharks: 15 Joe Pietersen, 14 Wandile Mjekevu, 13 Paul Jordaan, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 S'bura Sithole, 10 Lionel Cronje, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Daniel du Preez, 6 Francois Kleinhans, 5 Marco Wentzel (c), 4 Etienne Oosthuizen, 3 Gerhard Engelbrecht, 2 Monde Hadebe, 1 Dale Chadwick. 
Replacements: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Thomas du Toit, 18 JC Astle, 19 Jean-Luc du Preez, 20 Stefan Ungerer, 21 Heimar Williams, 22 Garth April.

Pumas: 15 JW Bell, 14 Bernado Botha, 13 Hoffman Maritz, 12 Stefan Watermeyer (c), 11 Rosco Spekman, 10 JC Roos, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Jason-Colin Fraser, 7 Uzair Cassiem, 6 Jaco Bouwer, 5 Marius Coetzer, 4 Rudi Mathee, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Jacques Momberg, 1 Corné Fourie.
Replacements: 16 Francois du Toit, 17 De-Jay Terblanche, 18 Khwezi Mona, 19 Giant Mtyanda, 20 Marnus Schoeman, 21 Justin van Staden, 22 Jerome Pretorius.

Date: Saturday, September 5
Venue: Kings Park Stadium, Durban
Kick-off: 15:00 local (13:00 GMT)
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen
Assistant referees: Craig Joubert, Jason Jaftha
Television match official: Marius Jonker