Morgan Piek – After back-to-back defeats in the opening rounds of the 2012 Super Rugby season The Sharks are somewhat under the cosh. Never one to mince his words, John Plumtree, The Sharks coach admitted that the pressure is now on and that his team is entering a vital stage in the competition.
Saturday’s game against the MTN Lions is a “do-or-die” game for the men from Durban. They have no option but to get a win under their belt ahead of their next two games against the Queensland Reds in Durban and the NSW Waratahs in Sydney respectively.
Despite having a better side on paper, The Sharks will feel the heat when facing their fellow 2011 Currie Cup finalists in Durban. The MTN Lions being the “weaker” team have the advantage of already winning a game and narrowly losing to the Hurricanes and Johannesburg a week later.
The added advantage is that the MTN Golden Lions beat the The Sharks in that famous final played at Coca-Cola Park, Johannesburg last October. The teams are both pretty much the same as those that played in the aforementioned game. The Sharks will have the added pressure of feeling the need to set the record straight and exact their revenge on their bitter rivals, as they were actually a star-studded outfit that lost to the Lions who were more on a unit.
To John Plumtrees’ relief, he will have the services of two returning Springboks, Willem Alberts upfront and Odwa Ndungane in the backs. This should leave him with at least two nights good sleep ahead of Saturdays clash.
Alberts had proven over-and-over that he is a vital component in The Sharks forward pack and his services are dearly missed whenever he is not playing. Odwa on the other hand is a world class finisher and has the ability to create something out of nothing. With Lwazi Mvovo on the right wing, Odwa on the left and Riaan Viljoen balancing the tail, one can expect fireworks from the backline.
The phenomenal Sharks “go-to-guy”, Jacques Botes once again finds himself on the bench with the return of Willem Alberts. Marcell Coetzee has retained his spot on the open-side flank after a good game against the Stormers in Cape Town this past weekend. I’m confident in saying that Jacques Botes will come on after 60 minutes and play his usual role of being an “impact player”.
A slightly worrying prospect is that former French International, Frederic Michalak seems to have cemented his spot in the number nine jersey, seeing the Springbok scrumhalf Charl McLeod once again starts off the bench. I personally believe McLeod is better at ball distribution and providing Pat Lambie with better ball on the front foot. Michalak has tons of experience in his favour, but like most French players can be a little erratic from time-to-time.
With a strong bench once again, I cannot see The Sharks having any problems taming the MTN Lions at the Shark Tank. This is their first home game after the season, and should make a good showing in front of their loyal supporters after narrowly losing to the both the Vodacom Bulls and The DHL Stormers on the road.
The Sharks team is as follows:
15. Riaan Viljoen, 14. Odwa Ndungane, 13. JP Pietersen, 12. Tim Whitehead, 11. Lwazi Mvovo, 10. Patrick Lambie, 9. Frederic Michalak, 8. Keegan Daniel (Captain), 7. Willem Alberts, 6. Marcell Coetzee, 5. Ross Skeate, 4. Steven Sykes, 3. Wiehahn Herbst, 2. Bismarck du Plessis, 1. Dale Chadwick.
16. Craig Burden, 17. Jannie du Plessis, 18. Anton Bresler, 19. Jacques Botes, 20. Charl McLeod, 21. Meyer Bosman, 22. Paul Jordaan.