DURBAN – Tomorrow at Jonsson Kings Park Tendai Mtawarira will draw level with the retired Adriaan Strauss as the most capped South African Super Rugby player (156 appearances) and if ever his team needs a big game from The Beast, it is in this derby against the Bulls.
Mtawarira’s captain, Louis Schreuder, was perhaps stating the obvious when he said yesterday that The Beast and the rest of the Sharks’ leadership had to set the example against a fired-up Bulls side that would have legends Schalk Brits and Duane Vermeulen in the vanguard.
“Last week against the Rebels, our leadership produced, notably Tendai, who was outstanding up front. We need more of the same against the Bulls. It is going to be important that we are successful in our one-on-one battles with their big names.”
The Sharks will need that plus a lot more if they are to finally beat their bogey side - The Sharks last beat the Bulls in Super Rugby in 2014. That is a staggering eight consecutive losses, home and away.
Sharks coach Robert du Preez has accordingly declared his team on a Test match footing.
“This is going to be Test match rugby, so exits and our kicking game in general have to be spot on. Discipline has to be good and our physicality has to be right up there. ”
For both sides, the derby provides a platform for Springboks and wannabe Springboks to impress. Games such as this could duplicate as Bok trials.
Du Preez agrees. “Rassie (Erasmus) and the Bok staff will be watching closely. It is a great opportunity to stake a claim for the World Cup squad.”
In terms of the big name players that need to come to the party for the Sharks, Du Preez welcomed the return to fitness of the experienced Philip van der Walt.
He was sorely missed this season after returning from Japan in January with a thigh injury that has at last cleared up.
“Philip has been chomping at the bit for some time and this derby game against the Bulls is the perfect time for him to come back,” Du Preez said. “It will be a big boost for us to have his leadership qualities in the second half.”
Van der Walt will come on for the newly promoted Luke Stringer, the former Western Province flank. Stringer displaces youngster Phepsi Buthlelezi in the starting line-up, who drops out of the squad because of the return of Van der Walt.
On the subject of forward substitutes, it was a case of lightning striking twice in the same place for hooker Craig Burden when he pulled up with an arm injury at training yesterday. Last week, he was also injured in the final training session of the week (a knee problem).
Burden, who is clearly having a difficult time making his comeback for the Sharks after returning from a career in France, is again replaced by young Kerron van Vuuren.
1 more day to go until the Black Panther @CellC Sharks take to the field in their Vodacom @SuperRugby encounter with the Captain America @BlueBullsRugby.🏉— The Sharks (@TheSharksZA) March 29, 2019
Get your tickets now at the stadium or https://t.co/RZDaPocTYU for this epic battle!🎟#SHAvBUL #WakandaForever pic.twitter.com/7q4Cl0AyvE
There is one change in the backs, with right wing Sbu Nkosi enjoying a Springbok rotational break. He is replaced by veteran Lwazi Mvovo.
A newcomer to the bench is Kobus van Wyk, the wing who can also play centre, and he is needed in that respect after the suspensions of Jeremy Ward and Marius Louw. Van Wyk is making a timely return from a shoulder injury.
Referee: Mike Fraser (New Zealand).
15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Lwazi Mvovo, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 André Esterhuizen, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Louis Schreuder (c), 8 Daniel du Preez, 7 Jacques Vermeulen, 6 Luke Stringer, 5 Hyron Andrews, 4 Ruben van Heerden, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Akker van der Merwe, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Subs: 16 Kerron van Vuuren, 17 Thomas du Toit, 18 Khutha Mchunu, 19 Gideon Koegelenberg, 20 Philip van der Walt, 21 Grant Williams, 22 Kobus van Wyk, 23 Curwin Bosch.
15 Divan Rossouw, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Rosko Specman, 10 Handré Pollard (c), 9 Embrose Papier, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Hanro Liebenberg, 6 Ruan Steenkamp, 5 Eli Snyman, 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Lizo Gqoboka.
Subs: 16 Corniel Els, 17 Simpiwe Matanzima, 18 Conrad van Vuuren, 19 Jannes Kirsten, 20 Tim Agaba, 21 Ivan van Zyl, 22 Manie Libbok, 23 Johnny Kotzé.@MikeGreenaway67