The Sharks host their second Australian opponents in as many weeks on Saturday as the Rebels begin its annual swing through South Africa.
The Sharks host their second Australian opposition in as many weeks at Kings Park on Saturday as the Rebels begin its annual swing through South Africa.
The Sharks have been travelling nicely with three wins from four starts this season. They were 3-0 for the better until they hit the form side of the competition, the Brumbies.
Having conceded four tries in the first half and managing just ten points in that game, they will surely be looking to atone for a heavy handed defeat with a big performance against the Rebels.
The Rebels haven't won since their Round One victory over the Western Force in Melbourne. They've lost every game since, despite leading at half-time on each occasion against the Waratahs, Brumbies and the Reds. They're developing a reputation for tiring, if not choking, after seemingly placing themselves in winning positions.
This game is a little strange in context. In a battle of sixth versus 12th, the Sharks are expected to be too powerful. Given the Rebels second-half fade outs, few will fancy their chances although they will field close to their best 15.
The game will likely be won or lost depending on fitness.
The Sharks forward pack could also be too powerful for the Rebels. Cadeyrn Neville (202cm, 120kg) and Chris Thompson (205cm, 120kg) – their two biggest players 0 have been overlooked in a match where size and strength counts.
Instead, the Rebels favour Luke Jones and Hugh Pyle which means the visitors may be hoping for a more mobile and agile pack to compensate for their lack of size.
The Sharks and Rebels haven't played each other since Round Four of the 2011 season, when the South Africans won thanks to a last-gasp try from Meyer Bosman. On that occasion the Rebels gave the Sharks an almighty scare before losing 34-32 at the death.
The Sharks may have to contain a similarly spirited opening stanza from their visitors. If they weather the storm early, the Rebels will tire as the game evolves.
Prediction: The Sharks have had their pride bruised. And with their heavy hitting fire power up front, will be difficult to stop. The Rebels backs may have more zip and could have the edge when the ball goes wide. But this battle will be won in the forwards. Sharks by 10!
The Sharks: 15 Louis Ludik, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Paul Jordaan, 12 Meyer Bosman, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Patrick Lambie, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Keegan Daniel (c), 7 Marcell Coetzee, 6 Jacques Botes, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Kyle Cooper, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Craig Burden, 17 Jannie du Plessis, 18 Jandre Marais, 19 Ryan Kankowski, 20 Charl McLeod, 21 Francois Steyn, 22 Riaan Viljoen.
Melbourne Rebels: 15 Angus Roberts, 14 Jason Woodward, 13 Mitch Inman, 12 Lachlan Mitchell, 11 Cooper Vuna, 10 James O'Connor, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Gareth Delve (c), 7 Scott Fuglistaller, 6 Scott Higginbotham, 5 Luke Jones, 4 Hugh Pyle, 3 Laurie Weeks, 2 Ged Robinson, 1 Nic Henderson.
Replacements: 16 Shota Horie, 17 Paul Alo-Emile, 18 Cadeyrn Neville, 19 Jordy Reid, 20 Nic Stirzaker, 21 Rory Sidey, 22 Richard Kingi.
Date: Saturday, 23 March
Venue: Kings Park, Durban
Kick-off: 17:05 (15:05 GMT)
Referee: Lourens van der Merwe (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Jaco Peyper (South Africa), Reuben Rossouw (South Africa)
Television match official: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)
By Paul Robertson