Sharks forwards coach Theo Oosthuizen is preparing his pack for their toughest test of the season when they face the Vodacom Blue Bulls at Loftus on Friday.
Oosthuizen said he was well aware that the Blue Bulls would place emphasis on dominating all facets of forward play and his team were ready for them. “We are expecting a physical onslaught,” he told keo.co.za
If this game mimics their Super 14 encounter at Loftus in April, Oosthuizen’s prediction could be spot on. “If you look at that game, we weren’t in it for the first 15 minutes. They absolutely nailed us in the forwards.”
The Bulls go into this game without Springbok hooker Gary Botha, out with a back injury, and his impact particularly in the tight exchanges will be sorely missed.
Hottie Louw, on loan from Welsh side Llanelli Scarletts, will partner Francois van Schouwenburg in the second row. But despite changes in these key positions, Oosthuizen rejects the notion that this will weaken a traditionally potent pack.
“Hottie is too experienced. He is a Bok lock and his experience gained playing overseas would have served him well. As far as the injury to Gary is concerned, his replacement Kobus van der Walt is a really good player. The Bulls won’t lose any quality through him.”
According to Oosthuizen the battle of the loose-trios will also be critical. The Sharks combination of Venter, Botes and Britz will be out to make sure they come out tops against the Bulls trio of Wannenburg, Dlulane and Brosnihan. “We will struggle if our loose-trio don’t hold their own, but so will anyone if the tight five are going backwards. If our tight five is on the back foot, it will be no contest.”
Asked what sort of game plan the Durban-based side would employ to counter their northern rivals, Oosthuizen was clear in his approach.” For us it will be all about securing good first-phase possession and not allowing them to disrupt us at the point of break down. This will lay the foundation for us to attack them with our backs.”
The teams are tied for second in the table, with both having lost one game. The Loftus faithful will be sure to make their KZN visitors feel as unwelcome as possible and their unwavering support could be the difference in what is going to be a bruising Absa Currie Cup encounter.
Sharks: 15. Odwa Ndungane 14. Dusty Noble 13. Gcobani Bobo 12. Grant Rees 11. Craig Burden 10. Bradley Barritt 9. Ruan Pienaar 8. AJ Venter (c) 7. Jacques Botes 6. Warren Britz 5. Steven Sykes 4. Wouter Moore 3. Danie Saayman 2. Bismarck du Plessis 1. Kees Lensing.
Substitutes: 16. Skipper Badenhorst, 17. BJ Botha, 18. Ryan Kankowski, 19. Keegan Daniel 20. Scott Mathie 21. Mzwandile Stick 22. Andrew Binikos
Vodacom Blue Bulls: 15. Stefan Basson 14. John Mametsa 13. JP Nel 12. Dries Scholtz 11. Frikkie Welsh(c) 10. MornÃ© Steyn 9. Heini Adams 8. Pedrie Wannenburg 7. Tim Dlulane 6. Warren Brosnihan 5. Francois van Schouwenburg 4. Hottie Louw 3. Rayno Gerber 2. Kobus van der Walt 1. Wessel Roux.
Sustitutes: 16. Adriaan Strauss 17. Jaco Engels 18. Adriaan Fondse 19. Hilton Lobberts 20. Neil Powell 21. Jacques-Louis Potgieter 22. Johan Roets.
By Ryan Vrede