Now, today’s match at Kings Park, at 5pm, spells the latest chapter in this classic rivalry, but it is a derby with a new face. The tradition is still there; the pride, the passion, and the regional honour, but the rugby on offer will likely be something that has not often been seen when these two titans of South African rugby clash.
The Sharks have, through their history, adapted and changed their playing style slightly. They have also always had traditional strengths, like powerful forwards and dependable set pieces, but have never broken with those traditions too much.
The same can be said of the Bulls, only to a much larger degree. The Bulls have built up a long reputation of being bruising in the forwards, conservative in the backs, and accurate in kicking.
Now, in 2018, there is a change in the waters. The Sharks have, after much initial promise, turned on their attacking potential and are living up to the billing they set themselves coming into this competition. With their powerful backs, skillful forwards, offloading game and desire to score, the Sharks look a little like a New Zealand side.
But that is nothing compared to their opponents for the day, the Bulls, who have at their helm one of the most worldly Kiwi coaches in John Mitchell. The former All Black coach has already imprinted his style of play on the Bulls, drawing them away from their conservative approach, and into the age of modern, exciting rugby.
Suddenly, this traditional, hard-as-nails South African derby has a fresh spin on it that is far silkier, more skillful, and probably set to be a lot more entertaining in regards to attacking rugby.
The Sharks have returned from New Zealand, having racked up 100+ points, and are hungry to keep that momentum going, and admit they now have a few strings to their bow.
“You want to score tries in this tournament; that’s obviously a big goal for us. But winning games is the real objective, so if we have to fight it out in the trenches, that’s what we will do,” said coach Robert du Preez.
Mitchell has also identified the attacking threat the Sharks pose, while making no secret of his own team’s desire to be threatening with ball in hand. “You look at them and they are confident in attack and they will look to maintain that approach. They look to win gain-line and they look to off-load and keep the ball alive,” Mitchell said.
“We see that as an area they will look to continue with and they score a lot of points so that gives an indication of what they will bring. I think this game will come down to field position, gain-line and whoever best takes their opportunities.”
Sharks: 15 Curwin Bosch, 14 Sbu Nkosi, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 André Esterhuizen, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Tera Mtembu, 7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Philip van der Walt, 5 Stephan Lewies, 4 Ruan Botha (captain), 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Akker van der Merwe, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 John-Hubert Meyer, 19 Tyler Paul, 20 Daniel du Preez, 21 Cameron Wright, 22 Marius Louw, 23 Kobus van Wyk.
Bulls: 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Johnny Kötze, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Burger Odendaal (captain), 11 Divan Rossouw, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Ivan van Zyl, 8 Hanro Liebenberg, 7 Thembelani Bholi, 6 Marco van Staden, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 RG Snyman, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Pierre Schoeman.
Replacements: 16 Jaco Visagie, 17 Lizo Gqoboka, 18 Frans van Wyk, 19 Jason Jenkins, 20 Roelof Smit, 21 André Warner, 22 Manie Libbok, 23 Duncan Matthews.