Planet Rugby

Preview: Bulls v Sharks

21st March 2014 08:35


Victor Matfield Bulls Super Rugby v Sharks 2014

Stand-in skipper: Victor Matfield

In a very rare occurrence, neither the Bulls nor the Sharks will have a Ndungane brother in their setup when the two teams battle it out in Pretoria on Saturday.

Both former Springboks are sill away on family leave following the recent death of a man who could very well have been the proudest father in South African history.

And when considering who the replacements are in the absence of the twins, it becomes clearer why the Sharks have yet to lose a game this season.

Jake White will again have two internationals on the wing, while the Bulls have their hopes pinned on former Springbok Sevens speedster Sampie Mastriet who is on debut.

In Pretoria, poor decision making by those responsible for player recruitment has left the Bulls in a position where they no longer have the biggest stockpile of match winners to bank on when one gets injured.

This week the introduction of a somewhat temperamental Paul Willemse at lock in the place of the injured Flip van der Merwe highlights just how fragile the three-time champions actually are. Van der Merwe's hamstring injury is indeed a devastating setback.

On a more positive note, Bulls fly-half Jacques-Louis Potgieter is one of their form players at the moment and when considering the supposed simplicity of their game plan, it has become evident that without the services of a confident pivot, their kick-and-charge tactics become as ineffective as their recent contracting policy has been.

When these sides last met Louis Fouché was their general and it was later discovered that he may have been slightly out of his comfort zone at this level.

However, the Bulls still consider themselves unfortunate to have lost their opener in Durban and will be desperate to set the record straight against a side that has, again, shown great early season form.

From a Sharks perspective a loss at this juncture could be of greater value to their long-term ambitions than another win would be.

The process of identifying flaws becomes that much easier when the scoreboard favours the opposing side and, as things currently stand, the Sharks have hardly been forced to take a reflective look in the mirror. Not that they will ever plan to lose.

Ironically, White's last visit to the Bulls fortress was with a Brumbies outfit that had far less fire-power than the Durban-based squad he coaches today.

On that occasion tactical nous sunk a Bulls battleship that looked primed to compete in a Super Rugby final - so it would not be a surprise if Saturday's hit-out is again determined by the smarter of the two sides... who coincidentally have some of the biggest ball carriers in their ranks.

One of the most significant differences between the sides is that the Sharks do not have an on-field tactician in Victor Matfield's mould.

The Springbok lock's return from retirement went full-circle when he took over as captain from the injured Van der Merwe and to further boost his team's chances, he will have one of his lieutenants at his side.

Although impossible to judge in what form returning flanker Dewald Potgieter is in, his presence in one of the most inexperienced Bulls outfits in years should prompt further improvement, as he is one of those players who feels aggrieved if he does not bleed profusely at least once during a match.

Potgieter's urge to give his all will be welcomed by a Sharks loose-trio consisting of Marcel Coetzee, Willem Alberts and a rejuvenated Ryan Kankowski.

The Sharks loosies have been outstanding thus far and when considering the simple fact that turnovers win matches, learning a valuable lesson from a loss may very well be postponed to a later stage.

Prediction: This could become an ugly one to watch. The Bulls should win at home, even if it is by a very small margin. Bulls by three.

Bulls: 15 Jurgen Visser, 14 Sampie Mastriet, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Dewald Potgieter, 7 Jacques du Plessis, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Victor Matfield (c), 4 Paul Willemse, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Callie Visagie, 1 Dean Greyling.
Replacements: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Marcel van der Merwe, 18 Grant Hattingh, 19 Jono Ross, 20 Piet van Zyl, 21 Handré Pollard, 22 Ulrich Beyers, 23 Morné Mellet.

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 Etienne Oosthuizen, 20 Tera Mtembu, 21 Charl McLeod, 22 Tim Swiel, 23 Andre Esterhuizen.

Date: Saturday, March 22
Venue: Loftus Versfeld Stadium, Pretoria
Kick-off: 19.10 local (17.10 GMT)
Referee: Mike Fraser (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Craig Joubert (South Africa), Jaco van Heerden (South Africa)
Television match official: Deon van Blommenstein (South Africa)

Forthcoming Fixtures
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Friday , September 5
Northampton vs Gloucester19:45
More Aviva Premiership fixtures
Guinness PRO12
Friday , September 5
Ospreys vs Benetton Treviso19:35
Munster vs Edinburgh19:35
More Guinness PRO12 fixtures
Top 14
Saturday , August 30
Castres vs BayonneCastres vs Bayonne Preview
Oyonnax vs Stade Francais18:30
Grenoble vs Bordeaux-Begles18:30
Lyon vs Brive18:30
Racing Metro Paris vs Toulon20:45
Friday , September 5
Montpellier vs Castres20:45
More Top 14 fixtures
Currie Cup
Saturday , August 30
Eastern Province Kings vs Lions19:10
Friday , September 5
Western Province vs Eastern Province Kings19:10
More Currie Cup fixtures
Sunday , August 31
Taranaki vs Bay Of Plenty14:35
Auckland vs TasmanAuckland vs Tasman Preview
Wednesday, September 3
Manawatu vs Bay Of Plenty19:35
Thursday , September 4
Otago vs Canterbury19:35
Friday , September 5
Tasman vs Waikato18:05
Northland vs Hawkes Bay20:05
More ITM Cup fixtures
Recent Results
All times are local
Top 14
Saturday , August 30
La Rochelle 37 - 25 ToulouseLa Rochelle vs Toulouse Report
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Griquas 25 - 36 CheetahsGriquas vs Cheetahs Report
Blue Bulls 18 - 23 Western ProvinceBlue Bulls vs Western Province Report
More Currie Cup results
Counties Manukau 21 - 27 Hawkes BayCounties Manukau vs Hawkes Bay Report
Southland 22 - 33 Otago
North Harbour 16 - 22 WaikatoNorth Harbour vs Waikato Report
More ITM Cup results
Top 14
Friday , August 29
Clermont Auvergne 20 - 21 MontpellierClermont Auvergne vs Montpellier Report
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Pumas 32 - 22 SharksPumas vs Sharks Report
More Currie Cup results
Wellington 21 - 27 ManawatuWellington vs Manawatu Report
Thursday , August 28
Canterbury 48 - 3 NorthlandCanterbury vs Northland Report
Wednesday, August 27
Waikato 17 - 46 TaranakiWaikato vs Taranaki Report
Sunday , August 24
Manawatu 7 - 35 AucklandManawatu vs Auckland Report
Bay Of Plenty 27 - 56 TasmanBay Of Plenty vs Tasman Report
More ITM Cup results
Rugby Championship
Saturday , August 23
New Zealand 51 - 20 AustraliaNew Zealand vs Australia Report
Argentina 31 - 33 South AfricaArgentina vs South Africa Report
More Rugby Championship results
Top 14
Brive 6 - 21 Clermont AuvergneBrive vs Clermont Auvergne Report
Bordeaux-Begles 30 - 21 Racing Metro Paris
Stade Francais 23 - 20 Lyon
Toulon 60 - 19 La Rochelle
Montpellier 20 - 17 GrenobleMontpellier vs Grenoble Report
Bayonne 38 - 12 Oyonnax
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Blue Bulls 30 - 25 Eastern Province KingsBlue Bulls vs Eastern Province Kings Report
Western Province 27 - 14 LionsWestern Province vs Lions Report
Sharks 19 - 16 CheetahsSharks vs Cheetahs Report
More Currie Cup results
Northland 35 - 5 WellingtonNorthland vs Wellington Report
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership Table
5Leicester Tigers00