Planet Rugby

Preview: Sharks v Blues

28th June 2013 07:07

Share:

Butch James

In need of a big game: Butch James

It's must-win time for the Blues as they face the Sharks in Durban on Saturday, with the hosts hopeful of putting off-field drama to one side.

Coach John Plumtree's premature departure from the Sharks set-up has stolen the headlines in recent days, with the Kiwi paying the price for a poor season as new CEO John Smit wasted no time in making decisive decisions.

It's on the field that Smit - and many ailing Sharks fans - will be hoping to see real change though, with last year's finalists blowing lukewarm and cold thus far this season.

The Sharks' injury list is at last decreasing to a manageable level and they'll need the likes of Bismarck du Plessis, Butch James, Louis Ludik and Cobus Reinach to come out with all guns blazing on their return from injury.

The experience of James at inside centre will be vital for the home side, with stand-in coaches Grant Bashford and Hugh Reece-Edwards desperately needing someone to put their hand up in a leadership capacity that Keegan Daniel has thus far failed to assert himself in this season.

It may be the presence of the bulldozing James inside of him that finally sees Pat Lambie hit his straps after a solid campaign that has yet to really reached the heights many would have hoped.

Unfortunately, it is perhaps an indictment of the predicament that the Sharks find themselves in that a 34-year-old fly-half, wearing the number 12 jersey, who is passed his best is being considered as a catalyst for positive change.

Despite this, when in the mood the Sharks can run the ball with great gusto and one hopes that they'll so when the Blues arrive, as the prospect of the two sides running it from end to end is certainly a tantalizing one.

Indeed, the Blues will certainly be looking to not only grab a win but also a four-try bonus point as they look to keep their play-off hopes alive. With the Chiefs out of sight at the top of the New Zealand conference, the Blues are hoping to grab one of the three wildcard spots on offer.

Sir John Kirwan's troops suffered a fate only the Sharks have known this season when they lost to the Highlanders last time out and they'll need to bounce back strongly. Surprisingly the Blues have a poor record against the Sharks, having lost their last eight matches against the men from Durban. Making it nine matches without a win will surely end the Blues' season.

All Blacks Rene Ranger and Keven Mealamu will start from the bench after only arriving in South Africa days after the rest of the squad due to international commitments. Despite this, the Blues still possess a strong looking XV and will most certainly provide some defensive headaches for the Sharks. In fact, the introduction of a player like Ranger when the game has broken up a bit could prove pivotal.

With 35 tries to their name this season, the Blues certainly haven't had any trouble notching up four pointers, but they've also shipped a fair few. It's in defence that they'll need to up their game on Saturday as they can't rely on their ability to shred defences alone to win games.

Prediction: Both teams need the win and if the Sharks class of 2013 are going to prove they're not to be relegated to the ranks of a poor vintage, they'll have to produce a big performance and they will. Sharks by five.

The Sharks: 15 Riaan Viljoen, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Louis Ludick, 12 Butch James, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Pat Lambie, 9 Charl McLeod, 8 Keegan Daniel (c), 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Edwin Hewitt, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Kyle Cooper, 1 Tendai Mtawarira
Replacements: 16 Bismarck du Plessis, 17 Danie Mienie/Wiehahn Herbst, 18 Jandre Marais, 19 Jean Deysel, 20 Jacques Botes, 21 Cobus Reinach, 22 Jaco van Tonder

Blues: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Frank Halai, 13 Jackson Willison, 12 Francis Saili, 11 George Moala, 10 Chris Noakes, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Peter Saili, 7 Luke Braid, 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Ali Williams (c), 4 Anthony Boric, 3 Angus Ta'avao, 2 James Parsons, 1 Tim Perry.
Replacements: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 18 Kane Barrett / Culum Retallick, 19 Brendon O'Connor, 20 Jamison Gibson-Park, 21 Baden Kerr, 22 Rene Ranger.

Date: Saturday, June 29
Kick-off: 14:50 (12:50 GMT)
Venue: Kings Park, Durban
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Tiaan Jonker (South Africa), Reuben Rossouw (South Africa)
Television match official: Willie Roos (South Africa)

Forthcoming Fixtures
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Top 14
Friday , August 29
Clermont Auvergne vs MontpellierClermont Auvergne vs Montpellier Preview
Saturday , August 30
La Rochelle vs Toulouse14:45
Castres vs BayonneCastres vs Bayonne Preview
Lyon vs Brive18:30
Grenoble vs Bordeaux-Begles18:30
Oyonnax vs Stade Francais18:30
Racing Metro Paris vs Toulon20:45
More Top 14 fixtures
Currie Cup
Friday , August 29
Pumas vs SharksPumas vs Sharks Preview
Saturday , August 30
Griquas vs Cheetahs15:00
Blue Bulls vs Western ProvinceBlue Bulls vs Western Province Preview
Eastern Province Kings vs Lions19:10
More Currie Cup fixtures
ITM Cup
Saturday , August 30
Counties Manukau vs Hawkes BayCounties Manukau vs Hawkes Bay Preview
Southland vs Otago17:35
North Harbour vs WaikatoNorth Harbour vs Waikato Preview
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
More ITM Cup fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
ITM Cup
Friday , August 29
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
Bayonne 38 - 12 Oyonnax
Stade Francais 23 - 20 Lyon
Toulon 60 - 19 La Rochelle
Montpellier 20 - 17 GrenobleMontpellier vs Grenoble Report
Bordeaux-Begles 30 - 21 Racing Metro Paris
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
ITM Cup
Northland 35 - 5 WellingtonNorthland vs Wellington Report
Counties Manukau 29 - 25 OtagoCounties Manukau vs Otago Report
More ITM Cup results
Top 14
Friday , August 22
Toulouse 35 - 6 CastresToulouse vs Castres Report
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Pumas 33 - 15 GriquasPumas vs Griquas Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Waikato 27 - 58 CanterburyWaikato vs Canterbury Report
Hawkes Bay 29 - 26 TaranakiHawkes Bay vs Taranaki Report
Thursday , August 21
North Harbour 21 - 25 Southland
Sunday , August 17
Tasman 35 - 15 Hawkes BayTasman vs Hawkes Bay Report
Northland 23 - 28 Manawatu
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Bath00
2Exeter00
3Gloucester00
4Harlequins00
5Leicester Tigers00