The Brumbies will be hungry for their first scalp of the competition when they host the touring Sharks in Canberra on Saturday.
Both sides sit at third place in their respective conferences after both collected a losing bonus point in their Round One game.
The Sharks are three points behind the Jaguares and the Lions who both won without a bonus point last weekend while the Brumbies are behind the Waratahs and the Reds who also have four points each. Whoever claims victory in the clash can jump to the top of the table depending on other results.
History favours the Canberra side in this fixture as they have won six of their last nine games against the Sharks, including each of their last two in 2013 and 2014. And most of those victories have come at home for the Brumbies as they have won eight of their last nine games when hosting the Sharks.
The Durbanites have usually remained competitive though as each of their last six fixtures have been decided by seven points or fewer making it a close game each time.
Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham said he was disappointed by the loss last weekend but says they will be better against the Sharks.
“We looked at the game from last week and we thought the energy and attitude was spot on, it was probably just a bit of cohesion that cost us points in the game,” Larkham told the Canberra Times.
“We certainly appreciated the effort so we gave these guys another chance to find combinations.
“We wanted to reward them with another opportunity to find that cohesion but looking down the track we’ll look at getting good rotation in the squad.”
Sharks coach Robert du Preez hopes that his side will have the ball a bit more and focus more on their discipline.
“We didn’t play well at all, it was a very disappointing result and we just couldn’t get going at all. We didn’t have a lot of possession and you need a fair share of possession if you’re going to win,” Du Preez told the Citizen.
“The first problem was our discipline, we gave away 11 penalties . So discipline is a focus this week. And territory goes hand-in-hand with possession and our exits weren’t great.
“And we also couldn’t fit phases together because of individual errors. We need to be able to execute three phases after the set-piece, because then you’re in the mix and you can play rugby.”
The last time these teams met: The Brumbies beat the Sharks 16-9 in Canberra three years ago. The Brumbies scored one try through second-row Sam Carter while star utility-back Christian Leali’ifano added three penalties and a conversion to his side’s tally while all of the Sharks’ points were scored by Francois Steyn. It was a game of revenge for the Canberra side as Sharks coach Jake White had left them high and dry a season before and the Brumbies were able to contain a dangerous Sharks attack in the wet and stormy weather of South East Australia.
Players to watch: Young New Zealand-born playmaker Wharenui Hawera gets the nod in the Brumbies starting ten role. After a week of teething for the Brumbies expect the exciting young prospect to have a serious crack at this game and let the ball fly to release the dangerous men outside him. He contributed eight points to side’s tally in a tight game last week and will use his opportunities well on Saturday.
Sharks flanker Phillip van der Walt was incredible in the opening round last weekend after he made 18 tackles, the most of any player alongside the Bulls’ loose-forward Jacques Potgieter. The former Cheetah is a workhorse among the Sharks pack and expect him to be a tackling machine against the Brumbies.
Team news: The Brumbies remain unchanged from their clash last weekend and, despite the loss last week, have a strong side packed with experience and a few Wallaby caps.
Clément Poitrenaud starts for the Sharks this weekend and he will add some experience in a rookie backline at the expense of Curwin Bosch who drops to the bench. In the forwards they have one change with Stephan Lewies coming into the four jersey.
Form: Both sides are coming off close losses with the Brumbies having just loss to the Crusaders 17-13 at AMI Stadium and the Sharks just missing out against the Reds at Suncorp Stadium. It was tight game in the Antipodean clash despite the Crusaders scoring three tries to the Brumbies’ one, with the away side staying in the game through the boot of Hawera. The Sharks were unlucky not to beat the Reds last weekend as they were ahead for most of the match after tries from loose-forwards Jean-Luc du Preez and Tera Mtembu before a try in the 71st minute which sunk them.
Prediction: A first win of the season is up for grabs after losses in the opening round, and while the Sharks are tough customers, homeground advantage should see the Brumbies through. Brumbies by seven.
2014: Brumbies won 16-9 in Canberra
2013: Brumbies won 29-10 in Durban
2012: Sharks won 29-26 in Canberra
2011: Sharks won 34-16 in Durban
2010: Brumbies won 24-22 in Canberra
2009: Sharks won 35-14 in Durban
2008: Brumbies won 27-21 in Canberra
Brumbies: Brumbies: 15 Aidan Toua, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Kyle Godwin, 11 James Dargaville, 10 Wharenui Hawera, 9 Joe Powell, 8 Jordan Smiler, 7 Chris Alcock, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Josh Mann-Rea, 1 Nic Mayhew
Replacements: 16 Robbie Abel, 17 Ben Alexander, 18 Leslie Leulua’iali’i-Makin, 19 Tom Staniforth, 20 Lolo Fakaosilea, 21 De Wet Roos, 22 Andrew Smith, 23 Isaac Thompson
Sharks: 15 Clément Poitrenaud, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Patrick Lambie (c), 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Tera Mtembu, 7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Philip van der Walt, 5 Ruan Botha, 4 Stephan Lewies, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Franco Marais, 1 Tendai Mtawarira
Replacements: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 Thomas du Toit, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 Jean Droste, 20 Jacques Vermeulen, 21 Michael Claassens, 22 Jeremy Ward, 23 Curwin Bosch
Date: Saturday, March 4
Venue: GIO Stadium, Canberra
Kick-off: 19:45 local (8:45 GMT)
Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)
Assistant Referees: Jordan Way (Australia), Edward Martin (Australia)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)