Garth April (Sharks) vs Warwick Gelant (Bulls)
As veteran Shark Keegan Daniel put it this week “Gelant is the talk of the town”. The Bulls fullback has certainly been in sensational form of late and is revelling in new coach John Mitchell’s attacking style of play, particularly on the counter-attack.
Gelant is a superb athlete and has the pace and power to explode through the defence and finish off.
The Sharks will not want to feed him ammunition to attack. April, smaller in size and sporting a Bruno Mars hairdo, is more of a cheeky fullback.
He has an exceptional eye for a gap and is brilliant at hot-stepping through a half-gap and then off-loading to the support.
He has also shown courage under the high ball and can kick equally well off both feet. April has the invaluable advantage of being able to seamlessly move into flyhalf if required.
Lukhanyo Am (Sharks) vs Burger Odendaal (Bulls)
Last week Am returned to his outside centre position after six weeks of injury and performed as if he had never been away.
The skilful, industrious 23-year-old is a Springbok-in-waiting and this season his consistent form resulted in an SA A call-up. His return is timeous for the Sharks given their lack of experience in the midfield. Am is up against the burly Bulls captain.
Odendaal might be shorn of his trademark locks, but unlike the biblical Samson, he has not lost his strength.
Odendaal continuously gets his team over the advantage line with his powerful running. He has been an inspiration for the Bulls as captain in their difficult season.
Am and Odendaal might have different attributes, but they are equally important to their teams. Both are also reliable defenders and Am has proved to be artful in winning unlikely turnovers from his position out wide.
Jean-Luc du Preez (Sharks) vs Tim Agaba (Bulls)
The Sharks No 7 has enjoyed a memorable season and will hope to finish off strongly by helping his team to the title.
He’ll bring his hard, aggressive style to the contest today and look to put the Bulls’ close defenders under plenty of pressure. His runs at the gainline will be key for his team to stay on the front foot, while his hard tackling will certainly boost the Sharks’ defensive effort.
Opposing him is former Sevens star Agaba, who fits perfectly into coach John Mitchell’s running style of rugby.
He’s coming off an exceptional performance against the Pumas and with his good handling skills and off-loading ability he’ll keep the Sharks on their toes.
His smart running lines, picked up at Sevens, could undo the hosts in Durban in what should be a hotly contested loose-forward battle.
Ruan Botha (Sharks) vs Ruben van Heerden (Bulls)
Deemed surplus to requirements at Western Province, Sharks lock and captain Ruan Botha has not only found himself as a player, but has emerged as a strong leader that can hold his own against the best in the country.
Botha has wasted no time in establishing himself at the Sharks through his robust play. Always one to push the boundaries with his aggression with ball in hand, in the tackle or in cleaning the rucks, Botha will, however, have to control his temper.
Nineteen-year-old Bulls lock Ruben van Heerden could well be a handful for Botha, especially in the lineouts, as the Junior Springbok second rower has grown from strength to strength in this year’s Currie Cup.
Van Heerden will also be valuable to his team through his ability to run alongside the backs, which often adds weight and grunt to the breathtaking waves of attacks by the Bulls.