DURBAN – The Australian capital of Canberra has seldom been a happy hunting ground for the Sharks in Super Rugby over the years, but in tomorrow’s quarter-final against the Brumbies the visitors have every reason to believe they can pull off a rare win.
This Brumbies won the Australian conference, but they do not command the same respect as the Brumbies teams of the George Gregan and Stephen Larkham era. That said they have won six matches in a row and they have a monster pack that plays to its strengths by throwing everything into the set pieces.
The Sharks know that if they can nullify the Brumbies pack, they have the backline to do the rest. It is not often that a South African backline potentially has an advantage over their Antipodean counterparts.
“The set piece has been a massive focus in our preparations,” coach Robert du Preez said. “Most of their tries have originated from line-outs. That is their strength, so we have worked very hard on countering that. But by the same token our set piece has gone well this season, and that is encouraging ahead of what is going to be a huge battle up front. Ascendancy there is going to be crucial.”
The manner in which the Sharks finished against the Stormers last week will have given them a major boost for the quarter-final, especially those critical last three minutes in which they played near perfect rugby.
“This is a team that when things go to plan can beat any team anywhere in the world,” Du Preez said. “We showed amazing patience to score that try. Moments like that show the spirit of the team.”
Du Preez has brought back fit-again Curwin Bosch at full-back in place of the injured Aphelele Fassi. Fassi has been ruled out with a rotator cuff sprain on his right shoulder. Bosch, who has recovered from the ankle injury he suffered against the Jaguares, returns in his place.
The rest of the starting line-up remains unchanged. On the bench, Juan Schoeman returns as loosehead prop cover.@MikeGreenaway67