Cell C Sharks coach Gary Gold says his team will continue to play ball-in-hand rugby against the Emirates Lions at King’s Park today, even though this will lead to some close shaves or even defeat as it did last weekend against the Cheetahs.
The Lions are known for a similar approach but have the game-plan bedded down having used it for a few years now under first John Mitchell and now Johan Ackermann, which only increases the challenge for the Sharks.
“We made a lot of errors against the Cheetahs, but you know we were heavily criticised for the way we played last year even though we made the SuperRugby playoffs, and when I was appointed, I spoke to the senior players and they said they want to play ball-in-hand, positive rugby.
“But that comes with risks, it’s easier to coach the other way. It’s a confidence thing, if you get it wrong you’re under the cosh. But it’s about making better decisions in the right areas,” Gold told The Citizen this week.
But playing an expansive brand of rugby also depends heavily on the forwards being ascendant and getting front-foot ball, and the Sharks pack were well-held by the Cheetahs, who dominated the set-pieces.
The return of captain Bismarck du Plessis should add some fire to the Sharks and there will be a fascinating clash between the incumbent Springbok great and the young hooker tipped for great things, Malcolm Marx.
They share a similar physique with Marx being one centimetre shorter at 1.88m and the same weight (113kg) as Du Plessis, according to the Lions website.
“Bismarck brings a different dimension to the Sharks, he is very good at the breakdown, he brings good leadership to the side and he has vast experience, so we know they are going to be a better side than last week.
“Malcolm did very well last week, he has had a game before at this level but it was his first start, and I believe he is only going to get better with more experience. It will be a nice tussle because they are similar in build and frame,” Lions captain Warren Whiteley said.
The Lions fell into the trap of not taking their kicks at goal in last weekend’s defeat to the Hurricanes, while flyhalf Marnitz Boshoff’s boot was also off-form, but Whiteley said he expected all 23 players to step up their efforts today.
They will not be helped by star flanker Jaco Kriel’s absence – he was troubled by a groin strain against the Hurricanes and is now being rested.
Gold was also forced to make changes to the Sharks line-up and has given a debut cap to lock Lubabalo “Giant” Mtyanda.
With both teams coming off home defeats, a titanic tussle can be expected with both packs tearing into each other; for all their big-name players, the Sharks have often been given a hard time by the Lions and that is bound to continue.
Sharks: 15-SP Marais, 14-Odwa Ndungane, 13-Waylon Murray, 12-Heimar Williams, 11-Lwazi Mvovo, 10-Pat Lambie, 9-Cobus Reinach, 8-Tera Mtembu, 7-Renaldo Bothma, 6-Marcell Coetzee, 5-Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4-Lubabalo Mtyanda, 3-Jannie du Plessis, 2-Bismarck du Plessis, 1-Dale Chadwick. Replacements – 16-Kyle Cooper, 17-Thomas du Toit, 18-Matt Stevens, 19-Marco Wentzel, 20-Jean Deysel, 21-Conrad Hoffmann, 22-Fred Zeilinga, 23-Andre Esterhuizen.
Lions: 15-Andries Coetzee, 14-Ruan Combrinck, 13-Lionel Mapoe, 12-Howard Mnisi, 11-Courtnall Skosan, 10-Marnitz Boshoff, 9-Ross Cronje, 8-Warren Whiteley, 7-Warwick Tecklenburg, 6-Derick Minnie, 5-Franco Mostert, 4-Martin Muller, 3-Ruan Dreyer, 2-Malcolm Marx, 1-Jacques van Rooyen. Replacements – 16-Robbie Coetzee, 17-Schalk van der Merwe, 18-Julian Redelinghuys, 19-JP du Preez, 20-Ruaan Lerm, 21-Faf de Klerk, 22-Elton Jantjies, 23-Harold Vorster.