Bulls must try to ’suffocate’ lethal Sharks attack
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CAPE TOWN – Wow, Sharks coach Sean Everitt has really upped the ante with his backline selection for Saturday’s Rainbow Cup South Africa showdown with the Bulls at Loftus.
It’s a rematch of the Currie Cup final, where it took Jake White’s team 100 minutes to emerge victorious after a titanic battle on a January summer’s day.
But it’s not quite the same backline that White will be able to field, and that could determine the approach he takes to plot another triumph over the Durbanites.
While Everitt could announce a seriously-loaded back division that contains the lethal Aphelele Fassi, Sbu Nkosi and Yaw Penxe, a classy centre pair of captain Lukhanyo Am and Jeremy Ward, and the game-breaking abilities of halfbacks Jaden Hendrikse and Curwin Bosch, the former Springbok coach will be missing key elements of his Currie Cup-winning unit.
Outside centre Stedman Gans is still out with an ankle injury, and wouldn’t have been available anyway as he is with the Blitzboks at the moment, while Kurt-Lee Arendse is also on national Sevens duty.
Scrumhalf Ivan van Zyl is also on his way to Saracens in England soon, which has seen Embrose Papier don the No 9 jersey in the Rainbow Cup SA so far.
These three players’ replacements haven’t done too badly, but it’s not just the same. Marco Jansen van Vuren is still finding his feet in the difficult No 13 position, and Papier is striving to achieve the right balance between his running and kicking games.
Madosh Tambwe, though, is red-hot at the moment. He produced two fine finishes for his brace against the Stormers last week, and competes well for the high-ball too.
Stravino Jacobs is a powerhouse wing, and perhaps the Bulls should look to get the ball into his hands more often than they did against the Lions and Stormers.
But can the Bulls backline handle the ruthless Sharks attack? Last season’s group was equipped to fight fire with fire, although Bosch missed a few shots at goal that proved decisive in the Currie Cup final.
At the moment, though, White may just opt for the same strategy that helped them beat the Stormers. “We played a bit differently to how we have been playing in the past, because we felt that was one way in which we could sort of suffocate the Stormers’ attack,” White said.
There is no doubt that the Bulls cannot allow such a dangerous Sharks backline any freebies. The coach lamented the high penalty count last week, and if his team get on to the wrong side of the referee’s whistle again, Bosch & Co can punish them with the boot and out wide.
Their scramble defence will have to be in overdrive on Saturday, and perhaps a bit of a rush strategy could do the trick too in order to shut down the Sharks’ width on attack, where Fassi and Nkosi are devastating with ball-in-hand.
White will announce the Bulls match-day team on Friday.