The Sharks have won six of eight Super Rugby clashes against the Reds. They won the first three before losing the fourth clash and this pattern has been repeated in their last four meetings. However, that trend could change, as the reds’ two key playmakers – Will Genia and Quade Cooper appear to have regained their best form.
Sharks Director of Rugby Jake White knows all about what makes winning teams and he felt the key to beating the Reds is to minimise the contribution of the Wallaby duo. “There is no doubt, teams that have won this competition, the consistent theme [to winning this competition] is having good No.9s and No.10s,” White told a media briefing. “When the Reds won this competition, these two were on fire, but they were young and now much more experienced.
“The challenges are there, we have to make sure we step up to the plate. “We know that the only way to put pressure on No.9 and No.10 is to make sure you do your job in the forwards.” The Sharks feel they have the firepower to do the job up front.
“We’re lucky enough to have a good pack of forwards,” White said, adding: “[Captain] Bismarck [du Plessis] has 100 games, Jannie [du Plessis] and Beast [Tendai Mtawarira] have 90-odd, Ryan [Kankowski] and Willem [Alberts] have 80-odd each. “So we have an experienced pack of forwards. “There is a lot we have in our favour, but we need to make it count. It’s simple: pressure gets applied by the forwards and we have to make sure we don’t give them time and space to play because if you do, they can carve you to pieces.”
The Sharks skipper, Bismarck du Plessis, spoke to the value an experienced campaigner like Wallaby lock James Horwill – with 90-odd Super Rugby caps – will bring to the game. “They won the competition [in 2011] and he has been a really influential leader for them, he really plays well,” Du Plessis said, echoing his coach’s views.
“We want to put them under pressure in the set phases.” Du Plessis admitted playing an Australian team – after a few rounds against South African teams – mean you face very different challenges. “South African sides, like the Bulls and Lions we’ve faced so far, like to drive the ball. “The Australian players like to play it off the top, although they do drive as well. They want to get the ball into their play-makers’ hands.”
2013: Reds won 32-17, Brisbane
2012: Sharks won 30-17, Brisbane (preliminary play-off)
2012: Sharks 27-22, Durban
2010: Sharks won 30-28, Durban
2009: Reds won 25-13, Brisbane
2008: Sharks won 22-10, Durban
Sharks: 15 SP Marais, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Sibusiso Sithole, 12 Frans Steyn, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Patrick Lambie, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Stephan Lewies, 4 Anton Bresler, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis (captain), 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Dale Chadwick, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 TBC, 20 Tera Mtembu, 21 Charl McLeod, 22 Heimar Williams, 23 Jaco van Tonder.
Reds: 15 Aidan Toua, 14 Rod Davies, 13 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 12 Mike Harris, 11 Lachie Turner, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Liam Gill, 6 Eddie Quirk, 5 James Horwill (captain), 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 Saia Fainga’a, 1 James Slipper.
Replacements: 16 James Hanson, 17 Ben Daley, 18 Jono Owen, 19 Ed O’Donoghue, 20 Beau Robinson, 21 Nick Frisby, 22 Ben Tapuai, 23 Dom Shipperley.
Referee: Lourens van der Merwe (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Jaco van Heerden (South Africa), Stefan Breytenbach (South Africa)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)