The Bulls believe they can, if they play to their true potential – more like their performance against the Blues a fortnight ago. However, they are up against a team blessed with having two genuine playmakers in their backline in Pat Lambie and Francois Steyn. The Sharks have shown they can play both an expansive game and handle a gruelling forward battle up front. A trip up to Pretoria looks to be their toughest test to date, although they did record a comprehensive 15-point victory over the three-time champions in Round One this year.
Back on track after two straight victories in the opening weeks, the Bulls have shown they might not be a spent force in Super Rugby after all. Sharks Director of Rugby Jake White admitted they are looking forward to finally playing on a dry field on the Highveld – after some testing and humid conditions in all four their home games. “I don’t think anybody can say we are conservative, given that we have scored the second most tries in the competition,” White told this website in an interview. The Sharks have scored 12 tries in their four games, and conceded five – with only the Blues, in 11th place and Hurricanes in 12th place who have more, both scored 13 in the same number of games.
“Our outside backs have scored 80 percent of our tries,” the Sharks boss said. “To get up there on the Highveld, with a nice hard field, and be able to move the ball around is something we are looking forward to.” The Bulls are determined to kick on from their two recent wins. “For us every game is important,” coach Frans Ludeke told this website.
“We are up against a team in good form, playing good rugby and unbeaten,” he said, adding: “That makes the challenge so much more interesting. “However, we have to put the past [last four games] behind us and come up with an 80-minute effort. “We are at home and must win if we want to have a say in the competition.” While a lot has happened since the Sharks beat the Bulls in Durban in Week One, Ludeke admitted some tough lessons were learnt from that outing.
“Our reaction at the breakdown was slow and our ball carriers turned over too much possession at the breakdown – that put us under pressure,” he said. “We created opportunities, but were disappointed that we didn’t convert those into points. “That [converting opportunities into points] will be critical this weekend. “Discipline is another factor.
“We need to ensure we are on the right side of the calls in all aspects – set pieces, breakdown, etc.” Both teams have the ability to put the opposition under pressure on the scoreboard with penalties, which means dominating up front will be crucial. Both teams have lost Springbok locks to injury – Pieter-Steph du Toit out for the rest of the year with a knee injury and Flip van der Merwe for a couple of weeks with a hamstring strain.
2014: Sharks won 31-16, Durban
2013: Bulls won 20-19, Pretoria
2013: Bulls won 18-16, Durban
2012: Sharks won 32-10, Durban
2012: Bulls won 18-13, Pretoria
2011: Sharks won 26-23, Pretoria
2011: Bulls won 32-23, Durban
Bulls: 15 Jurgen Visser, 14 Sampie Mastriet, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Dewald Potgieter, 7 Jacques du Plessis, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Victor Matfield (captain), 4 Paul Willemse, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Callie Visagie, 1 Dean Greyling.
Replacements: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Morné Mellett, 18 Marcel van der Merwe, 19 Grant Hattingh, 20 Jono Ross, 21 Piet van Zyl, 22 Handré Pollard, 23 Ulrich Beyers.
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 Etienne Oosthuizen, 20 Lubabalo Mtembu, 21 Charl McLeod, 22 Tim Swiel, 23 Andre Esterhuizen.
Referee: Mike Fraser (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Craig Joubert (South Africa), Jaco van Heerden (South Africa)
TMO: Deon van Blommenstein (South Africa)