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With the Jaguares tackling the Lions in the round’s final game, this is an opportunity for the Sharks to possibly move top in their conference.
It won’t be easy, however, as the Waratahs are likely to be much improved from last week’s performance at the Lions, which was impacted by the late withdrawals due to injury of second-row Will Skelton and scrum-half Nick Phipps. The latter returns to the starting XV this week.
Daryl Gibson’s charges are in a similar position to the Sharks as two of their rival countrymen, the Brumbies and Force, collide on Friday. They are currently a point off the Force and Reds in the Australian conference and will know an away victory would do them a power of good.
Previous clashes between the Sharks and Waratahs have provided a mixed bag of results, as the last five meetings have been won by the home side on the day, with the 2009 Waratahs being the last team to win away in this fixture. That will give the Sharks extra confidence along with them having won their last four home games; not since a run of eight successive wins in Durban from 2013 to 2014 have they won more.
And with one win out of two on the road, coach Robert du Preez has understandably been pleased with their season start and hailed his players.
“The effort from the guys to pull of the win last weekend was fantastic and showed the character and fighting spirit amongst this special group of players,” he praised. “That win has definitely motivated us, however it is important that we build on that momentum this week.”
“The Waratahs will want to end their tour on a high and will be a difficult prospect,” he added, with the ‘Tahs having won four of their last seven matches in South Africa. “We’re looking forward to playing at home and the support of our fans will give us added motivation.”
Home field advantage, like in past clashes, could well play a factor on Saturday, but with the Sharks having just got home from Australia it remains to be seen how that affects their showing. The ‘Tahs meanwhile have had the luxury of having a full week on South African soil following that Lions loss. However, they’ll stand little chance if they don’t plug their defensive holes that were evident in Johannesburg.
It’s fascinatingly poised ahead of kick-off and promises to be a tight affair with the result possibly defining seasons even at this early stage. A win for the Sharks would be huge before they host the Kings while the Waratahs will be desperate to avoid an unhappy flight home.
Sharks: 15 Clement Poitrenaud, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Patrick Lambie (c), 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Tera Mtembu, 7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Philip van der Walt, 5 Ruan Botha, 4 Stephan Lewies, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Franco Marais, 1 Tendai Mtawarira
Replacements: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 Thomas du Toit, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 Jean Droste, 20 Jacques Vermeulen, 21 Michael Claassens, 22 Jeremy Ward, 23 Curwin Bosch
Waratahs: 15 Andrew Kellaway, 14 Reece Robinson, 13 Israel Folau, 12 Irae Simone, 11 Rob Horne, 10 Bryce Hegarty, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Michael Wells, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 Jack Dempsey, 5 David McDuling, 4 Dean Mumm, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tolu Latu, 1 Tom Robertson
Replacements: 16 Hugh Roach, 17 Paddy Ryan, 18 David Lolohea, 19 Senio Toleafoa, 20 Maclean Jones, 21 Matt Lucas, 22 David Horwitz, 23 Cameron Clark