SOUTH AFRICA’S Super Rugby challenge kicks off this evening in Durban with a top-notch derby between the Sharks and the Bulls that should quicken the pulse of any fan. Mike Greenaway says the Sharks will win and Jacques van der Westhuyzen believes it
WHY THE BULLS WILL WIN …
The mystery factor: It’s coach Pote Human’s second year in charge and he would have learned a great deal about the competition and his players in his first year in charge last year. What will he and his coaching team have come up with in terms of the game-plan during the off-season? Will they play tight, conservative rugby, or look to run the ball? They didn’t give much away on Superhero Sunday and will look to surprise the Sharks away from home first-up. There are also several players in the Bulls side who the Sharks
won’t know too much about.
Experience: We’ve seen time and again that in Super Rugby experience is everything, and the Bulls have plenty of it going into this game. There will perhaps be a few out there who won’t agree with some of the selections made by coach Human, but he’s backed a few seasoned men to help get his team across the line. Flyhalf Morne Steyn (35), lock Juandre Kruger (34) and loose-forward Joshua Strauss (33) have heaps of experience and they fill key positions in the team where their leadership and decision-making will be key.
Impact off the bench: Rassie Erasmus’ successful use of six forwards on his bench at last year’s World Cup in Japan hasn’t gone unnoticed and Human has gone the same route. He’s picked just two backs on his bench and stated openly he believes the battle will be won upfront. Being able to send on a full front row, including the experienced and fit-again Trevor Nyakane, two locks and a loose-forward, could be a game-changer. Also, exciting young flyhalf Manie Libbok should provide some late spark at the back.
History: The Bulls are undefeated in their last nine games against the Sharks; a 16-16 draw in March 2016 their only blemish in that run. Also, the Bulls won five of their six South African derbies last season, their most derby wins in a single campaign since 2013 (seven wins), so Human’s men should be brimming with confidence and belief going into this fixture. They’ll also have last year’s late escape in Durban (a 19-16 win) in the back of their minds. If any team has a hold over the Sharks it is the Bulls, and the home team’s players will be very aware of the history between them.
Potent back-three: If the Bulls get on top up-front, and there’s every chance they will, it will allow the dangerous back division, and especially the back three of Warrick Gelant, Cornal Hendricks and Rosko Specman, to do their thing. All three men are full of running and dangerous in space, with Gelant full of confidence following his stint with the World Cup-winning Boks, while Hendricks and Specman are try-hungry predators. These three men will ask plenty of the Sharks defence, and don’t be surprised to see one or more of them scoring a try today.