Preview: Stormers v Sharks

Date published: June 12 2015

The Stormers will know before kick-off in Durban on Saturday if they still have a chance of booking a home semi-final.

The South African conference is already in the bag so the Stormers' next game will be at Newlands in the Finals Series. Whether that is a semi-final in a fortnight or a play-off next week depends more on results in Australia than it does on the outcome at Kings Park.

If either the Waratahs or Brumbies win in Saturday's earlier games, the result at the Shark Tank will be irrelevant. If both Aussie teams lose without a bonus point then a draw or two bonus points in defeat will be enough to qualify directly into the semis. 

Stormers coach Allister Coetzee clearly believes that there is zero chance of both the results in Australia going their way, and has rested all of his big guns with no less than 14 changes to this weekend's starting XV as they focus of what seems like an inevitable play-off next week.

The Stormers should feel fortunate for having secured the conference already, and the Lions deserve some thanks from the Capetonians for some debatable decision-making in the dying minutes of both their derbies.

If the Lions had taken the three easy points on offer that would have earned a draw at Ellis Park earlier this year and/or had opted for the drop goal that would have won last week's clash at Newlands, the situation at the top of the SA group would have been very different.

The Stormers can nevertheless consider themselves South Africa's best team, and being able to give their first XV a rest after such a long season is a real luxury and a reward for their strong form over the past two months. 

All those changes have however changed the complexion of what is usually a fiercely contested derby, and the Sharks must now be favourites. 

The Sharks only have pride to play for, but in a farewell match for three stalwarts of the team, they will want to put on a decent show. The Durban-based side has the worst tackle success this season (83%), having missed more tackles per game than any other team this season (24).

"Before we played the Rebels, we had spoken about finishing on a good note and that remains our aim. It doesn’t matter where we are on the log, we want to play with pride because there is a lot of pride in the team and we want to finish on a high for the guys who might be playing last game in Sharks colours," said Sharks assistant coach Sean Everitt.

"We will prepare as normal, whether they bring their full metal jacket or not. Ultimately, we want to play our game and the focus for us is one making sure we do.

"We feel we have improved with each game since our tour opened on a bad note against the Highlanders; there has been regular improvement."

It's likely to be a low-scoring affair since the last five meetings between these sides have seen an average of less than 19 points scored by each team. We haven't seen a four-try bonus point in this fixture since 2004. Since Super Rugby expanded in 2011, the Stormers have won two of their four matches in Durban, but in this time the Sharks have outscored the Capetonians by four tries to three.

The last time these teams met: The Stormers won 29-13 in a feisty derby at Newlands in Round 4. A super solo score by Johnny Kotze in the first half and a penalty try after the break wrapped up a deserved win.Indiscipline and scrum issues for the Sharks gave the Stormers the upper hand as Demetri Catrakilis also slotted four penalties. 

Players to watch: Springbok stars Bismarck and Jannie du Plessis and Willem Alberts will be playing their last game in black for the hosts. Disciplinary issues and inconsistent form have made this a forgettable season for the veteran campaigners, but they will want to put their best foot forward in front of the Kings Park faithful. Having missed most of the season, Springbok back Jaco Taute returns to Super Rugby after getting some game time in the Vodacom Cup. When fully fit and in top form, Taute is a world class player. Unfortunately he has struggled with a series of injuries since his move from the Lions so he'll be keen to remind everyone what he is capable of. Nizaam Carr is the lone survivor in the Stormers XV. Capable of playing a across the back row, his versatility makes him a candidate for the Springbok squad so he'll want to grab a rare chance to start with both hands. 

Team news: The Sharks have named an unchanged backline to the one that beat the Rebels a fortnight ago but the pack sees the return of Marcell Coetzee, who takes over from Khaya Majola at openside. Etienne Oosthuizen moves into the second-row in place of Mouritz Botha, who drops out of the matchday 23 altogether this week. The Stormers have made 14 changes to their starting side with Carr starting at number eight.

There are three debutants in the matchday 23, with Robert du Preez starting at full-back while flanker Sikhumbuzo Notshe and hooker Michael Willemse making their first starts at this level. Lock Jan de Klerk and scrum-half Godlen Masimla will be looking to earn their first caps from the bench, whilst vice-captain Jaco Taute (inside centre – in his 50th overall Super Rugby appearance), Michael Rhodes (blindside) and Kobus van Wyk (on the bench) are back in the mix following their injury lay-offs.

Form: They Sharks are coming off a bye week but enjoyed back-to-back wins over the Reds and Rebels before their break. Last week's draw with the Lions means the Stormers are unbeaten in their last four games and have lost just once since early April. 

Predictions: On home soil, the Sharks really should be able to get past a second-string Stormers outfit. Sharks by six points. 

Previous results: 
2015: Stormers won 29-13 in Cape Town
2014: Sharks won 34-10 in Cape Town
2014: Stormers won 21-19 in Durban
2013: Stormers won 22-15 in Cape Town
2013: Sharks won 12-6 in Durban
2012: Sharks won 26-19 in Cape Town (semi-final)
2012: Sharks won 25-20 in Durban
2012: Stormers won 15-12 in Cape Town

The teams:

Sharks: 15 Lwazi Mvovo, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 JP Pietersen, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 S'bura Sithole, 10 Lionel Cronje, 9 Stefan Ungerer, 8 Renaldo Bothma, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Marco Wentzel (c), 4 Etienne Oosthuizen, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements:  16 Franco Marais, 17 Dale Chadwick, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 Lubabalo Mtyanda, 20 Khaya Majola, 21 Conrad Hoffmann, 22 Fred Zeilinga, 23 Heimar Williams.

Stormers: 15 Robert du Preez, 14 Johnny Kotze, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Jaco Taute, 11 Pat Howard, 10 Kurt Coleman, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Nizaam Carr (c), 7 Michael Rhodes, 6 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 5 Ruan Botha, 4 Jean Kleyn, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Michael Willemse, 1 Oli Kebble. 
Replacements: 16 Neil Rautenbach, 17 Ali Vermaak, 18 Wilco Louw, 19 Jan de Klerk, 20 Siya Kolisi, 21 Godlen Masimla, 22 Seabelo Senatla, 23 Kobus van Wyk.

Date: Saturday, June 13
Venue: Kings Park, Durban
Kick-off: 19:10 local (17:10 GMT, 03:10 AEST, 05:10 NZST)
Referee: Glen Jackson
Assistant referees: Quinton Immelman, Archie Sehlako
TMO: Marius Jonker