Photo: BackpagePix and EPA/GERHARD DURAAN
The Sharks and the Bulls will be at each other’s throats in Durban on Friday night. 

Rugby writers Mike Greenaway in the Sharks half of the field and Vata Ngobeni in the Bulls half of the field take a lighthearted look at the match.

Sharks all set to Bull-y their visitors

There was a time when a Pretoria team visiting Durban was assured of their forwards out-muscling their hosts and then bulleting the ball out to the flyhalf (scrumhalf Robert du Preez to Naas Botha for the best part of a decade), and the ball was then deposited near the corner flag for the line-out drive.

Not going to happen on Friday night.

I am not saying the Bulls forwards are powder-puff but the Sharks pack has the best set-piece in Super Rugby, so the only bullying that is going to be done in the scrums and line-outs is by the men in grey and white.

There is a reason why there has been a revolt in Pretoria - no pack worthy of the legacy of the blue jersey, no backline that has a clue what to do and a coach that is looking to the heavens in the hope of a miracle every time the TV cameras switch to the Bulls’ box.

Good luck to John Mitchell to sort out this dispirited bunch. He is in the USA with the Eagles - how Bulls fans will be wishing that the former All Blacks coach was in Durban on Friday night.

Strangely, the one thing the Bulls should be capable of doing on Friday night is run the ball now that a decent backline has taken shape. But opposite them is a Sharks back division that is one of the best in the country. Ask the Stormers, the last (defeated) visitors to Kings Park.

And watch out for Andre Esterhuizen, a Bulls-dozer if ever there was one. The centre is making his comeback from suspension and will be in menacing mood. 

He was the early pick for the Bok No 12 jersey (along with Rohan Janse van Rensburg), and he is going to want to give a reality check to Jan Serfontein.

Bulls on rookie wings and a prayer

“Yes it’s all John Mitchell.” That has been the standing joke around Loftus Versfeld in the past few weeks as anticipation grows ahead of the arrival of the former All Black coach who will take up his new position as executive of rugby at the Bulls midway through July. 

Mitchell’s arrival in the capital is expected to restore pride but he is also expected to perform miracles and haul the Bulls back from the brink of mediocrity to Super Rugby’s top table. 

But one thing that Mitchell has not been able to do is to give the Bulls wings! Following the tag line of a world famous energy drink, the Bulls would have loved for Mitchell to give them wings as they face an injury crisis with their outside backs. 

Kefentse Mahlo will be the third Bulls wing to make his Super Rugby debut in as many games after Jade Stighling and Duncan Matthews came in as replacements for the injured Travis Ismaiel and Jamba Ulengo. 

The fleet-footed Matthews scored on debut against the highly-rated Hurricanes at Loftus in their last match before the June international window and the Bulls will be hoping that Mahlo also makes an instant impression in his first outing at this level. 

All eyes will be on Mahlo and Matthews as they come face-to-face with veteran Odwa Ndungane and speedster S’bu Nkosi but also on the rest of the men in blue if they are to unshackle themselves from the bondage of defeat and fly to victory. 

The hand of Mitchell is yet to take effect on the Bulls but much will rest with Mahlo and Matthews to give the Bulls wings so they can begin the long road to redemption and salvage some pride in a season gone horribly wrong and has failed to take off.

The Star