Preview: Sharks v Western Force - Green and Gold Rugby
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Preview: Sharks v Western Force

Preview: Sharks v Western Force

It’s been an unusual build-up to Saturday’s match at the Shark Tank in Durban. The home side has won two on the bounce but their lineup this week has been unsettled. While their visitors from WA haven’t won anything in over a month, they might just be finding some form.

Heath Tessmann scores against the Sharks

Heath Tessmann scores against the Sharks

Last starts

It was heartbreak for the Force last week away to the Bulls on the Highveld, finishing one point short after conceding a penalty three on the bell. They would’ve taken encouragement, though, from the performance. The Force had made most of the running, scoring three tries to one despite being down to thirteen men at one stage during the second half. The handling was good and the defence was solid, despite eventually being breached by the Bulls’ rolling maul. A bit more composure and experience in closing out the match (and dare I say luck) and they would’ve won.

The Sharks, by contrast, prevailed in a spite-filled encounter at home against tournament favourites, the Chiefs. This was a brutal contest in wet and windy conditions. The Chiefs were shown one red card and the Sharks were shown two. Pat Lambie’s four penalty goals trumped the Chiefs’ try from a driving maul and two penalty goals from Aaron Cruden.

All of which points to the home side continuing their winning run at the Force’s expense on Saturday, but the events of the week have brought a few changes.

Ain’t that a kick in the head?

Captain Incorrigible Bismarck du Plessis is unavailable for 4 weeks after showing Chiefs number eight Michael Leitch some shoe leather for close inspection. He is replaced by backup hooker Kyle Cooper.

Frans Steyn was initially thought to be out of the side after being sent-off last Saturday for a tip tackle on Aaron Cruden, but he gained an unexpected reprieve from the judiciary who cleared him of the charge on Monday and rescinded his red card.

He was potentially out of the side again on Thursday when SANZAR announced they were appealing the judiciary decision but the appeal has now been postponed until after the Force match. The whole process seems a bit tawdry but with Andre Esterhuizen named in the starting side at 12, Steyn has been moved to 10 for Saturday’s match. In. Out. Shake it all about.

Sharks boss Gary Gold has swapped out another three players as part of an agreement with SARU to rest Springboks. Flanker Marcell Coetzee is replaced by Jean Deysal who becomes the captain, and the halfbacks Cobus Reinach and Pat Lambie are replaced by Conrad Hoffmann and the aforementioned Frans Steyn.

Changes for the Force

The starting line-up is unchanged from last week but outside back Dane Haylett-Petty replaces Junior Rasolea on the bench.

Players to Watch

The match-ups in the backrow and the halves will go a long way to deciding the outcome of this match. For the Force, number eight Ben McCalman has been in outstanding form. His opposite number Ryan Kankowski is no slouch either and combines a strong physical presence with dangerous running in attack.

Ben McCalman and Alby Mathewson against the Reds

Ben McCalman and Alby Mathewson against the Reds

Perth-born Kane Koteka (nephew of former All Black Paul Koteka) has impressed in his debut season at openside flanker in Matt Hodgson’s absence and he should have an advantage in mobility against the Sharks. On the other side of the scrum, Steve Mafi has been one of the best for the Force this year.

The Sharks are the bigger and heavier side in this match and the backline in particular outguns that of the Force. The effectiveness with which the Sharks backline can be unleashed will depend a lot on how Frans Steyn goes at 10. Will they click straight away? I don’t know.

On the other side of the coin, the five-eighths positions at the Force haven’t really been a strength this season. Sias Ebersohn and Luke Burton will have their work cut out on Saturday, both in general play and in goal kicking (the value of a goal kicker is underappreciated in Australia). The Force are in with a shot if these guys can take good options.

The Prediction

If these teams played ten times in a row, I think the Sharks would win seven out of ten.

But I’ve decided to take a punt.

Force by 1.

The Sharks

1. Tendai Mtawarira
2. Kyle Cooper
3. Jannie du Plessis
4. Mouritz Botha
5. Marco Wentzel
6. Renaldo Bothma
7. Jean Deysel (c)
8. Ryan Kankowski
9. Conrad Hoffmann
10. Frans Steyn
11. Lwazi Mvovo
12. Andre Esterhuizen
13. JP Pietersen
14. Odwa Ndungane
15. SP Marais

Replacements
16. Monde Hadebe
17. Thomas du Toit
18. Lourens Adriaanse
19. Lubabalo Mtyanda
20. Daniel du Preez
21. Stefan Ungerer
22. Fred Zeilinga
23. Waylon Murray

Western Force

1. Pekahou Cowan
2. Nathan Charles
3. Tetera Faulkner
4. Sam Wykes (c)
5. Adam Coleman
6. Steve Mafi
7. Kane Koteka
8. Ben McCalman
9. Alby Mathewson
10. Sias Ebersohn
11. Nick Cummins
12. Luke Burton
13. Kyle Godwin
14. Marcel Brache
15. Luke Morahan

Replacements
16. Heath Tessmann
17. Chris Heiberg
18. Wilhelm Steenkamp
19. Oliver Hoskins
20. Angus Cottrell
21. Ian Prior
22. Zack Holmes
23. Dane Haylett-Petty

Referee: Nic Briant (New Zealand)
AR1: Jason Jaftha (South Africa)
AR2: Quinton Immelman (South Africa)
TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa)

Sharks v Force

Venue: Kings Park, Durban
Date: Saturday 28 March
Kickoff: 17:05 local, 23.05 Perth (Sun 2.05 in Syd)

  • Farva

    Bismark is terribly incorrigible isn’t he. Would fit right in playing league.

    • Kiap

      He really would!

  • The Ham

    If Kyle can unleash then gaps will open up in that Shorks midfield

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