Preview: Sharks v Reds

Date published: March 14 2014

The Sharks' revival under Jake White faces a stern examination when they host the Reds in Durban on Saturday.

The Sharks' revival under Jake White faces a stern examination when they host the Reds in Durban on Saturday.

White's troops have made a terrific start to their campaign and will head into this clash brimming with confidence. They head into this clash unbeaten after three matches so far and were sitting at the top of the table at the start of the round.

The Sharks are also amongst the best attacking teams in the tournament. They secured try-scoring bonus-points in two of their three matches so far and are along with the Waratahs are the top try scorers so far this season, with 10 tries each, although the Waratahs have played in one fewer match than the men from Durban.

The Reds will be no pushovers, however. The 2011 champions impressed in beating the Brumbies in their season opener but suffered a humiliating defeat to the Waratahs.

Last weekend, they returned to their winnnig ways against the Cheetahs and wracked up a bonus-point in the process. White expects a tough encounter against Richard Graham's troops who are currently sixth on the table.

“There is no doubt that the Reds have a lot of experience,” said White.

“They've won the competition and a lot of their current players were in that winning team.

“So they understand what it takes to win and they travel quite well as a group.”

White said the Reds had a quality nine and 10 in Quade Cooper and Will Genia and the Wallaby captain James Horwill leading them.

“They have the makings of a good team and cannot be taken lightly. They have shown that when they beat the Brumbies and Cheetahs.”

White, who was in charge of the Brumbies for two seasons, said he was hoping to make use of his inside knowledge on the Brisbane-based visitors.

“I know what makes them tick having coached in Australia and I'm looking forward to that.”

The former Springbok boss hopes his side continue their strong start to 2014.

“We start the competition with a number of home games which is great, and we wanted to get some momentum in the competition,” added White.

“Everyone knows the guys have worked hard, had a tough pre-season and put the hard yards.

“The guys have had game time and the whole squad is starting to feel that they're contributing to where we are.”

The Reds will rely heavily on the Genia and Cooper, who are one of the msot experienced halfback duos in the tournament, to unlock the Sharks' defence. They are not a two-man show, however, and do have other players who could also do damage with ball in hand.

Young centre Chris Feauai-Sautia is one such player. The 20-year-old was in superb form in last weekend's win over the Cheetahs, and scored a brace of tries.

The visitors head into this clash holding a slight edge over the Sharks, having won nine out of the 16 previous matches they have played with the Shakrs victorious on seven occasions.

Prediction:This will be the home side's toughest battle yet and expect the Reds to push them close. The Sharks will pull it off, however, and win by five points!

The teams:

Sharks: 15 SP Marais, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 S'bura Sithole, 12 Frans Steyn, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Patrick Lambie, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Stephan Lewies, 4 Anton Bresler, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis (c), 1 Tendai Mtawarira
Replacements: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Dale Chadwick, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 TBC, 20 Tera Mtembu, 21 Charl McLeod, 22 Heimar Williams, 23 Jaco van Tonder

Reds: 15 Aidan Toua, 14 Rod Davies, 13 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 12 Mike Harris, 11 Lachie Turner, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Liam Gill, 6 Eddie Quirk, 5 James Horwill (c), 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 Saia Fainga'a, 1 James Slipper.
Replacements: 16 James Hanson, 17 Ben Daley, 18 Jono Owen, 19 Ed O'Donoghue, 20 Beau Robinson, 21 Nick Frisby, 22 Ben Tapuai, 23 Dom Shipperley.

Date: Saturday, March 15
Venue: Kings Park, Durban
Kick-off: 17.05 local (15.05 GMT)
Referee: Lourens van der Merwe (South Africa)