I am a much happier little Sharks fan after our win against the Highlanders, that’s for sure. Granted, I nearly had a few heart attacks during the game, and it’s quite fortunate that I share an office space with fellow rugby fans who aren’t affronted by me dropping a few F bombs when things get heated – those last few minutes when it looked like the Highlanders would score and take the lead nearly sent me over the edge. Am I proud of the victory dance I did in front of the Blue Bulls supporter who was taunting me by supporting the opposition? Well, yes actually, I am. Pfft. Take that!
Yes, the Highlanders were a man down for most of the game (how horrendous did Le Roux’s landing look, I couldn’t believe he was able to get up and keep playing!) and we didn’t fully capitalise on that, but the Sharks beat the reigning champions at their home ground. Let’s just take a moment to bask in that fact. I don’t care if it was by one point or how many tries were scored by either side (none, but hey), I just care who won. The Sharks. Despite what all those pundits were saying last week. And of course, this week they’re saying there’s no chance the Sharks can repeat the surprise victory and are backing the Chiefs. Obviously I am swimming against that tide and saying I think the men from Durban can do it again! Losing Cobus Reinach to injury is one hell of a blow, especially against one of the most in form teams of the tournament, but it’s not over until that final whistle blows, and I think everyone writing the Sharks off before the game has even began are underestimating the team’s commitment to improving on last year’s track record and returning to winning ways.
Both teams beat their opponents by a single point last week, so they’ll be fighting for a more impressive result on Friday. The Sharks will be hoping to continue their impressive defensive record, since the Chiefs have remarkable stats on attack, but will definitely need to add an extra dimension to their own attack. They’ll need to be calm and clinical, and the return of Keegan Daniel to the role of captain may just bring the calm that’s needed. Beast is one of my all time faves, but his temper has been surprisingly short over the last few weeks and he’s had a few words with referees – rightly or wrongly – and this is not the way to endear yourself and get the ref on your team’s side, so maybe it’s better that the pressure is removed from his broad shoulders. Garth April started at 10 last week instead of coming off the bench, and proved himself worthy of the opportunity, since he was responsible for all the points scored by the Sharks in their game against the Highlanders. It makes sense that he is starting again this week, and I’m sure he has a bright future ahead of him.
Luckily I’m on leave this week, so all the screaming and swearing (and hopefully victory dancing) will be done in the comfort of my own home, instead of traumatising my colleagues.
The Sharks side to play the Chiefs on Friday is:
15. Willie le Roux, 14. JP Pietersen, 13. Paul Jordaan, 12. Andre Esterhuizen, 11. Lwazi Mvovo, 10. Garth April, 9. Michael Claassens, 8. Daniel du Preez, 7. Jean-Luc du Preez, 6. Keegan Daniel (Captain), 5. Stephan Lewies, 4. Etienne Oosthuizen, 3. Lourens Adriaanse, 2. Kyle Cooper, 1. Dale Chadwick
16. Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17. Thomas du Toit, 18. Coenie Oosthuizen, 19. Hyron Andrews, 20. Jean Deysel, 21. Stefan Ungerer, 22. Joe Pietersen, 23. Odwa Ndungane
My SuperBru picks for round ten are (all times shown are SA time):
Chiefs v Sharks (29 Apr 09:35) Sharks by 3
Force v Bulls (29 Apr 13:05) Force by 5
Blues v Rebels (30 Apr 07:15) Blues by 2
Highlanders v Brumbies (30 Apr 09:35) Highlanders by 8
Reds v Cheetahs (30 Apr 11:40) Reds by 7
Lions v Hurricanes (30 Apr 17:05) Lions by 8
Stormers v Waratahs (30 Apr 19:10) Stormers by 4
Jaguares v Kings (30 Apr 23:40) Jaguares by 3