Planet Rugby

Preview: Blue Bulls v Sharks

03rd October 2013 10:18

Share:

Heimar Williams of the Sharks scores v Blue Bulls Currie Cup

Gunning for top spot: The Sharks

The Blue Bulls play host to the Sharks at Loftus Versfeld on Friday in what promises to be an intriguing encounter.

While buoyed by their resounding 52-10 win over the Griquas last week, Pine Pienaar's men will be aware that the table-topping Sharks will prove an altogether different proposition.

The home side, who have endured an inconsistent run of results in this year's competition, are currently only six points ahead of the bottom-placed Griquas.

In Pienaar's defence, the Bulls have hit hard by call-ups to the national side and the exodus of experienced players overseas. While a plethora of youngsters are gaining invaluable experience in the world's oldest provincial tournament, their tactical naivety has at times been exposed and their defence has proved porous.

In contrast, while still without a number of their Springbok stalwarts,the Sharks have developed a strong playing identity under Brendan Venter's leadership.

Venter's men have offered more bite on offence and full-back SP Marais continues to impress in the embryonic stages of his Sharks career.

The young Fred Zelinga, who continues in the number 10 jersey, is another man that has further enhanced his credentials. Such is his current rich vein of form that veteran pivot Butch James remains benched.

"I worked with Fred last year and we always knew he was a phenomenal player. We're just very happy to see the way that he's taken the step up," said Sharks head coach Brad Macleod-Henderson.

The fly-half battle is set to prove a mouth-watering contest, with Junior Rugby World Cup-winner Handré Pollard in the opposing number 10 jersey.

While both pivots have shown an ability to release their back-lines at pace and into space, Zelinga has proved far more reliable in front of goal. His tactical kicking has also proved a real strength in his arsenal.

The Bulls have selected an imposing pack, however the visitors are equally adept in the set-phases.

While the Bulls' pack possesses raw bulk, the Sharks loose trio, in particular, offers more mobility and owing to this very factor, they may well dominate the tight-loose exchanges.

As a further sub-plot, veteran flank forward Jaques Botes celebrates a rare milestone on Friday evening.

The former Pumas player will equal Helgard Muller's record 142 Currie Cup appearances.

Like a vintage wine, the 32-year-old Botes seems to improve with age. He possesses a tireless work-rate, an impressive eye for the try-line and a calmness under pressure.

While not one of the most physically-imposing flankers in the modern game, his all-round skill-set is unrivalled.

Meanwhile, Sharks skipper Keegan Daniel will run out for his 100th Currie Cup game for the coastal side.

Prediction: Although the Blue Bulls enjoy home-ground advantage, expect the dangerous Sharks back-line to expose their weaknesses on defence. Sharks by 15 points.

The teams:

Blue Bulls: 15 Jurgen Visser, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 William Small-Smith, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Rudy Paige, 8 Jono Ross (c), 7 Jacques du Plessis, 6 Wiaan Liebenberg, 5 David Bulbring, 4 Paul Willemse, 3 Frik Kirsten, 2 Mbongeni Mbonambi, 1 Marcel van der Merwe.
Replacements: 16 Bandise Maku, 17 Dean Greyling, 18 Grant Hattingh, 19 Jacques Engelbrecht, 20 Lohan Jacobs, 21 Ulrich Beyers, 22 Sampie Mastriet.

The Sharks: 15 SP Marais, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Tim Whitehead, 12 Heimar Williams, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Fred Zeilinga, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Keegan Daniel (capt), 7 Jean Deysel, 6 Jacques Botes, 5 Stephan Lewies, 4 Peet Marais, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Kyle Cooper, 1 Dale Chadwick.
Replacements: 16 Monde Hadebe, 17 Danie Mienie, 18 Edwin Hewitt, 19 Marcell Coetzee, 20 Charl McLeod, 21 Butch James, 22 Louis Ludik.

Date: Friday, October 4
Kick-off: 19:10 local (18:10 BST)
Venue: Loftus Versfeld Stadium, Pretoria
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen

By Grant Shub

  • Currie Cup Fixtures
Forthcoming Fixtures
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Currie Cup
Friday , September 5
Western Province vs Eastern Province Kings19:10
Saturday , September 6
Cheetahs vs Pumas15:00
Sharks vs Griquas17:05
Blue Bulls vs Lions19:10
Friday , September 12
Eastern Province Kings vs Blue Bulls19:10
Saturday , September 13
Griquas vs Pumas15:00
Cheetahs vs Sharks15:00
Lions vs Western Province17:05
Friday , September 19
Lions vs Pumas19:10
Saturday , September 20
Western Province vs Griquas15:00
More Currie Cup fixtures
  • Currie Cup Results
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Currie Cup
Saturday , August 30
Griquas 25 - 36 CheetahsGriquas vs Cheetahs Report
Blue Bulls 18 - 23 Western ProvinceBlue Bulls vs Western Province Report
Eastern Province Kings 22 - 41 LionsEastern Province Kings vs Lions Report
Friday , August 29
Pumas 32 - 22 SharksPumas vs Sharks Report
Saturday , August 23
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
Friday , August 22
Pumas 33 - 15 GriquasPumas vs Griquas Report
Saturday , August 16
Lions 60 - 19 Eastern Province KingsLions vs Eastern Province Kings Report
Western Province 41 - 17 Blue BullsWestern Province vs Blue Bulls Report
More Currie Cup results
  • Currie Cup Table
Overall 2014
Currie Cup Table
PosTeamPPts
1Western Province418
2Golden Lions415
3Pumas414
4Sharks413
5Cheetahs412