The Sharks will take the same 23-man squad that lost valiantly to the Hurricanes last weekend into their SuperRugby match against the Waratahs in Sydney on Saturday, director of rugby Gary Gold announced on Thursday.
The defending champion Waratahs are struggling to get into the playoffs and are currently in seventh place overall and second in the Australian conference, with the Brumbies and Rebels making life hard for the New South Welshmen. And they are coming off a shock defeat against the Western Force, so the Waratahs will come out firing.
The Sharks hammered the Waratahs 32-10 last year in Durban in one of their best performances of the season, tearing into the Australians up front, and they are clearly expecting another tremendous tussle between the forwards.
“They’re a very physical team, probably the most physical Australian side. We saw what the Force did to them last weekend by matching them from a physical point of view, so that’s the challenge for us. They have a big strong pack, but they move the ball well, so we’re really going to have to get our defensive shape right. Their front row has played probably 80 or 90 times together and all of them are Wallabies.
“Then you add the likes of Will Skelton into the mix, Dave Dennis and others, you can see why they’re the reigning champions. They’re a formidable team, one through 15, they’re a very well-balanced team with threats everywhere, some fantastic playmakers in the backline – the likes of Beale, Folau and Ashley-Cooper. This is possibly our toughest challenge to date,” Gold said.
The continued absence of Willem Alberts is going to make the world of difference unfortunately for the Sharks, for whom there are already question marks over the fitness of Bismarck du Plessis, Renaldo Bothma, Marco Wentzel and Lwazi Mvovo.
Team: Lwazi Mvovo, Odwa Ndungane, JP Pietersen, Francois Steyn, S’bura Sithole, Lionel Cronje, Stefan Ungerer, Renaldo Bothma, Etienne Oosthuizen, Marcell Coetzee, Marco Wentzel, Stephan Lewies, Jannie du Plessis, Bismarck du Plessis, Tendai Mtawarira. Bench – Franco Marais, Dale Chadwick, Lourens Adriaanse, Mouritz Botha, Kyle Cooper, Conrad Hoffmann, Andre Esterhuizen, Waylon Murray.