Super 14
Sharks look to feast on Bulls
May 14, 2009
The Sharks' John Smit looks to offload the ball. Chiefs v Sharks, Super 14, Waikato Stadium, Hamilton, New Zealand, April 21, 2007
John Smit will anchor the scrum for the Sharks against the Bulls at Kings Park © Getty Images
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Players/Officials: Fourie du Preez | Victor Matfield | John Smit
Teams: Bulls | Sharks

In our Game of the Week in the final round of the Super 14 it's the table-topping Bulls who travel to Durban with a chance to deny the Sharks a spot in the semi-finals.

While the biggest rivalry in South African rugby has traditionally been the North v South one - between the Bulls and the Stormers - in more recent times it's the one between the team from Pretoria and the Sharks that appears to have flourished as they've left their Cape colleague's behind when challenging for honours.

The Sharks coach John Plumtree has named his strongest lineup possible for the crucial clash knowing that anything other than a win would see them miss out on a semi-final spot.

There are two changes to the backline, Rory Kockott returns from a week's suspension at scrum-half, a change which sees Charl McLeod reverting to the bench. Riaan Swanepoel partners Adi Jacobs in the centres after Brad Barritt failed to recover in time from the nasty hit by Brett Sheehan on him last week in their 16-12 loss to the Waratahs.

In the pack, Keegan Daniel starts ahead of Jacques Botes at openside flank while John Smit and Jannie du Plessis are the other rotational changes. Smit starts at tighthead prop, a position in which he could well be likely to fill for the Springboks against the British and Irish Lions later this year. Andries Strauss will wear the No. 22 jersey ahead of Luzuko Vulindlu in the final change.

Plumtree knows that this derby is sure to be fire and brimstone stuff with play-off spots on the line.

"As a coach you want that intensity every week, that's the nature of this business and it's going to be Bok versus Bok this weekend. Possibly there is some rivalry for positions, these teams have the most number of current Springboks. It's down to the last round of the competition and we're still in it," explains coach John Plumtree.

"We've come a long way in three years and we're still not where we want to be, but this is a tough competition. At the end of it, we'll review our tournament and address issues that cost us and hopefully move forward."

Plumtree always felt that the semi-final places could well go down to the final roud of the tournament.

"We knew it would come down to the last round. I said at the start of the season if we had a good tour and won our home games we'd be fine. We did well on tour but not at home - it can happen to anyone.

"We had some TMO decisions go against us in the past couple of games, so we had some bad luck along the road which includes injuries as well. If you look at the Blues, they're one of the most talented sides in the competition, but couldn't get it going with all the injuries."

The Bulls have been boosted by the news the scrum-half Fourie du Preez has recovered from a calf injury and will take his spot in the starting line-up. Du Preez had missed last week's win over the Cheetahs after sustaining the injury against the Force.

JP Nel starts at outside centre while the Ndungane brothers, Akona and Odwa, go head to head on the wings. The side is led by Victor Matfield who together with Bakkies Botha will surely be involved in a massive contest against Steven Sykes and Johann Muller.

Springbok coach Peter de Villiers has publicly stated that he is casting his eye with particular interest over this game as an unofficial 'trial' game and with uncertainty over the tighthead, fly-half, inside centre and fullback positions at national level, and good performances at Kings Park could well see players play themselves into contention for Springbok honours.

Sharks :Terblanche; Ndungane, Jacobs, Swanepoel, Pietersen, Pienaar, Kockott, Mtawarira, Bismarck du Plessis, Smit, Sykes, Muller (captain), Daniel, Deysel, Kankowski

Replacements: Jannie du Plessis, Carstens, van den Berg, Botes, McLeod, Dumond, Strauss

Bulls: Kirchner; Ndungane, Nel, Olivier, Habana; Steyn, du Preez; Steenkamp, Ku√ľn, Kruger, Botha, Matfield (captain), Stegmann, Potgieter, Spies

Replacements: Ralepelle, Gerber, Rossouw, Wannenburg, Adams, Francis, Pretorius

Read our full preview of the final round of the Super 14


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