DURBAN – It is crunch time for the Sharks in Super Rugby 2018 when they host their nemesis side, the Stormers, at Kings Park tomorrow with coach Robert du Preez describing the match as approximating a deal-breaker for the Sharks’ campaign.
“A win will turn our season around,” Du Preez said. “It is a very important game for both teams considering the SA Conference table, and for us it is also a vital home game.”
This is especially so after the Sharks were hammered by the Bulls last week in Durban. They simply have to win this home game to stay in contention, and the Sharks camp know this only too well. At the same time, though, Du Preez says that his team has to keep cool heads and not let the pressure get to them.
“We cannot go into our shells because of fear of failure. In fact we must do the opposite and go out and enjoy ourselves, as we did in New Zealand,” the coach said. “The players have been hurting after the huge disappointment of the performance against the Bulls, but it would be fatal to dwell in the past.”
“Instead, we have to see this is as a new opportunity and we have spoken this week about not retreating into defensive mode. After all, it is a rugby game, not life or death, although it feels like it sometimes.”
Du Preez has made three changes to the side that lost to the Bulls. Wing Makazole Mapimpi gets a chance at the expense of Lwazi Mvovo after having been out of favour for the much of the season, despite plenty of pre-season hype around the deadly finisher.
At No 8 Daniel du Preez starts ahead of Tera Mtembu, and that means the three Du Preez brothers will start a Sharks match together for the first time.
Jean-Luc will be on the flank and Robert at flyhalf. There is also a start at scrumhalf for Cameron Wright, with Louis Schreuder moving to the bench.
Significantly, the vastly experienced and in-form Tendai Mtawarira has not recovered from his groin strain. If anything, the Beast is an inspiration to his teammates merely by his passionate presence.
The front row is also an area that the Stormers will target and the Beast’s absence does not help the Sharks’ cause, even though Jean Schoeman is an able replacement. Again, it comes down to the seniority and experience that Mtawarira provides.
Du Preez was asked whether the two Currie Cup matches at Kings Park that concluded the 2017 season, including the final, had relevance with tomorrow’s match in mind.
“This game is all about the pack, all about forward dominance,” Du Preez said. “If we do not get that it will be a long evening. It is going to be a set-piece battle. I know that is where they are going to target us, and we will be ready for it.”
To add to the significance of the set-piece struggle, heavy rain is predicted.
That inevitably means more set pieces, especially scrums from errors due to the slippery ball.
Sharks starting XV:
Curwin Bosch, S’bu Nkosi, Lukhanyo Am, André Esterhuizen, Makazole Mapimpi, Robert du Preez, Cameron Wright, Dan du Preez, Jean-Luc du Preez, Philip van der Walt, Stephan Lewies, Ruan Botha (c), Thomas du Toit, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Juan Schoeman.
Akker van der Merwe, Mzamo Majola, Ross Geldenhuys, Tyler Paul, Jacques Vermeulen, Louis Schreuder, Marius Louw, Lwazi Mvovo.
Stormers starting XV:
Dillyn Leyds, Craig Barry, EW Viljoen, Damian De Allende, Raymond Rhule, Damian Willemse, Dewaldt Duvenage, Sikhumbuzo Notshe,Pieter-Steph du Toit, Siya Kolisi (capt), Chris van Zyl, Jan de Klerk, Wilco Louw, Ramone Samuels, Steven Kitshoff.
Scarra Ntubeni, JC Janse van Rensburg, Carlu Sadie, Kobus van Dyk, Nizaam Carr, Paul de Wet,SP Marais, JJ Engelbrecht.