Preview: Sharks v Western Force

Date published: March 27 2015

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The Sharks will be keen to continue their recent winning run when they host the Western Force in Durban on Saturday.

It will not be easy, however, as their Australian opponents showed in a narrow defeat to the Bulls last weekend that they have little respect for their opponents' reputation or form at their home venue.

The Sharks’ six-match winning streak against the Force is currently their second best against a single opponent. Their best is 10 consecutive wins against the Blues, dating back to 2006.

The Force have won eight out of 22 matches played in South Africa. This includes victories in Cape Town, Pretoria, Johannesburg, Bloemfontein and Kimberley but they are yet to win in Durban.

Despite that poor form, the visitors haven taken home a losing bonus point on two of their last four visits to Durban.

The Sharks are on a high after recent wins over the Cheetahs and Chiefs and their assistant coach Paul Anthony is impressed how the side have turned things around in recent weeks after a slow start to their campaign.

"Going into that Cheetahs’ match, we put a mark on that game as the one where we really wanted to turn the ship around," he said.

"We knew it would take massive character to do that, and we managed to come away with the win.

“We just want to keep evolving every week and really put in a massive effort over the next three weeks, and obviously targeting this Saturday to deliver a massive game.

“With that character display behind us, if we can keep our discipline and mould that into a 15-man onslaught, that would be great.

"We really want to have a crack at it, but we know the Force will be hurting and just itching to come back after last weekend’s last-minute loss to the Bulls, so we will have to be mentally and physical prepared.”

The Sharks have chosen to rest experienced players in Marcell Coetzee, Cobus Reinach and Pat Lambie as part of the agreement between the Sharks and SARU to rest their Boks. Although this can be seen as a snub to their opponents, Western Force head coach Michael Foley is not fazed by it.

"If we are going to be motivated by those external things, there's a problem for us," he said.

"Anything that potentially dilutes the focus (of how we want to play) is dangerous for us. "We're a relatively young team, and we're certainly here to win.

"We've got to stay focused on the things we can control, and not let any of that type of thing cloud our view and focus."

The last time these team met: These two sides didn't play each other in 2014 but the Sharks won their previous match 23-13 in Perth in 2013. On that occasion, the Sharks outscored their hosts by two tries to one after trailing 10-7 at half time.

Players to watch: For the Sharks, all eyes will be on their back row of Ryan Kankowski, Jean Deysel and Renaldo Bothma. All are superb with ball in hand, who should give their side plenty of momentum with some strong carries.

If the Force want to cause an upset, so much will depend on the performance of their halfbacks Sias Ebersohn and Alby Mathewson. Mathewson's slick service will be crucial to unleash the Perth-based side's backs and Ebersohn's goalkicking – which is one of his strengths – could prove to be the difference between winning and losing.

Team news: With the Sharks' regular skipper and hooker Bismarck du Plessis suspended Jean Deysel takes over the captaincy while Kyle Cooper starts in the number two jersey. They have also left out Coetzee, Reinach and Lambie. Deysel, Conrad Hoffmann and Andre Esterhuizen come into the starting XV with the latter taking over at inside centre from Frans Steyn who moves to fly-half as Lambie's replacement.

The Force have retained the same starting line-up that lost 25-24 to the Bulls in Pretoria last weekend. The only change to the matchday squad is on the bench where Dane Haylett-Petty replaces Solomoni Jnr Rasolea.

Form: After winning just one of their first four games, the Sharks have bounced back with impressive victories over the Cheetahs and Sharks. The Force started with an away win over the Waratahs then suffered losses to the Reds, Hurricanes, Brumbies, Rebels and Bulls. 

Prediction: The Sharks will go into this game as favourites but they can expect a tough battle from the visitors. It will be close but Sharks to win by four points!

Previous results:

2013: Sharks won 23-13 in Perth
2012: Sharks won 53-11 in Durban
2011: Sharks won 39-12 in Perth
2010: Sharks won 27-22 in Durban
2009: Sharks won 22-10 in Perth

The teams:

Sharks: SP Marais, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 JP Pietersen, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Frans Steyn, 9 Conrad Hoffmann, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Jean Deysel (c), 6 Renaldo Bothma, 5 Marco Wentzel, 4 Mouritz Botha, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Kyle Cooper, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Monde Hadebe, 17 Thomas du Toit, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 Lubabalo Mtyanda, 20 Daniel du Preez, 21 Stefan Ungerer, 22 Fred Zeilinga, 23 Waylon Murray.

Western Force: 15 Luke Morahan, 14 Marcel Brache, 13 Kyle Godwin, 12 Luke Burton, 11 Nick Cummins, 10 Sias Ebersohn, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 Kane Koteka, 6 Steve Mafi, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Sam Wykes (c), 3 Tetera Faulkner, 2 Nathan Charles, 1 Pekahou Cowan.
Replacements: 16 Heath Tessmann, 17 Chris Heiberg, 18 Oliver Hoskins, 19 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 20 Angus Cottrell, 21 Ian Prior, 22 Zack Holmes, 23 Dane Haylett-Petty.

Date: Saturday, March 28
Venue: Kings Park Stadium, Durban
Kick-off: 17:05 local (15.05 GMT, 04.05 NZST, 02.05 AEST)
Referee: Nick Briant (New Zealand)
Assistant referees:Jason Jaftha (South Africa), Quinton Immelman (South Africa)
TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa)

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