DURBAN - One would be remiss to think that just because the Stormers can’t make the quarter-finals in this year’s edition of Super Rugby that they will simply roll over for the Sharks in Cape Town on Stuarday.
The Sharks are expecting a big battle from a team that has nothing to lose, and everything to gain, especially if they decide to get their tails up and show their supporters what they can do. The men from the Cape have already shown the Sharks just what they can do when they came to Durban and gave the home side a big run for their money in April; the set piece being key that day.
“Coming from a loss in Argentina, they will bounce back even though there is nothing on the line,” captain Ruan Botha said ahead ahead of the match as the Sharks look to make the knockout stages of the competition. “It makes them a really dangerous team because they can go out and freely express themselves and play like they want to. They are going to be a dangerous side, but we are looking forward to seeing what they bring, but the biggest battle will be the set piece, and with the forwards.”
The Stormers boast the likes of Steven Kitshoff and Wilco Louw, who, in tandem, have managed to tear apart many different well-thought of packs this year. For the Sharks, they have had their teething problems in the scrum battles at times, but have worked hard to rectify it. But it is not only the set pieces that the Sharks will have to worry about, the Stormers may have been poor on the road this season, but Newlands has been a fortress for them. Botha knows all about what that stadium can bring to a team, having played for the Stormers before joining the Sharks.
“One thing the Stormers thrive on is their supporters,” Botha said. “They get a big boost of energy from their fans and the crowd, and it is like any team, any home game is a fun game because you have your fans and they will cheer you on, especially when you start doing well, it goes even more. So a big focus for us is to just put them under pressure from the start.”
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The Sharks will be without one of their key bruising forwards in Jean-Luc du Preez who limped off against the Lions last week. They have also decided to give veteran prop Tendai Mtawarira a break after he played a big role in the Springboks’ series win over England.
“Beast is back from the Boks having not had a break for five weeks,” coach Robert du Preez explained. “So we decided to give him a break this week, and to start with Juan Schoeman. It is just really managing Beast. Juan has been outstanding, so we are in a good position to put him in.”
On the other side of the scrum though, Thomas du Toit will be making his 50th Super Rugby appearance. Explaining Jean-Luc’s injury, Du Preez mentioned that it is tough when any member of the squad goes down.
“If anyone of our guys that have played in the last couple games or who have been involved with our match 23 misses out, it is always a big loss. But we have such an able replacement in Jacques Vermeulen who really did well when he came in on Saturday. Hopefully Jean-Luc won’t be out for too long, we think about two or three weeks.”
Other changes see Louis Schreuder rotating with Cameron Wright for the No. 9 jersey and Sbu Nkosi returning in the place of Makzole Mapimpi.