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Ken Borland

Five key battles in the Sharks v Pumas game 0

Posted on November 30, 2020 by Ken

Marius Louw v Wayne van der Bank

Modern rugby and the vastly-improved defensive structures means inside centres no longer play with the same electrical intent to spread the ball like they used to, but Louw and exciting 23-year-old Van der Bank were two of the better No.12s in Super Rugby Unlocked.

Louw has been an impressive mix of industrial strength, throwing himself into the physical collisions, and pleasing skills for the Sharks, and has arguably been their most consistent player as the pacesetters at the start of the year have struggled to regain their spark. The former flanker had the fifth-most carries, shared with Van der Bank the honour of beating the second-most defenders [15] and produced five offloads [T6th] in Super Rugby Unlocked. He was also tied-fourth for the most tackles won.

Van der Bank may be small in build [89kg] compared to some of the bruisers playing inside centre these days, but he has been a delight to watch as he has rewired the Pumas backline. He has also beaten 15 defenders [T2nd] and has shown his physicality by winning the third most tackles. He may be coming off the bench on Friday night, but such has been his impact that he will almost certainly come on and take on Louw in a thrilling head-to-head.

Thembelani Bholi v Phumzile Maqondwana

The 23-year-old Maqondwana has been in such powerful form lately in the back row for the Pumas that the Sharks can expect him to throw the kitchen sink and several other appliances at them. Bholi is a hardworking loose forward and he is going to need to be at his best to keep the powerhouse from the Eastern Cape in check.

Dylan Richardson v Francois Kleinhans

Retreaded hooker Richardson has been given a remit as openside flank and will have to neutralise former Sharks flank Kleinhans, who will definitely target the breakdowns hard even though he is playing eighthman. The Pumas were the most effective team at the rucks in Super Rugby Unlocked, with a 94% success rate, while the Sharks were towards the bottom of that ranking, which makes it likely the visitors will target them in that department at Kings Park on Friday night.

Curwin Bosch v Theo Boshoff

The Pumas flyhalf is fresh out of university where he played a starring role for Tuks in the Varsity Cup and, solid as he has been, Pumas coach Jimmy Stonehouse will be tempted to shout instructions down the radio when it comes to game management. Bosch, in contrast, has been an accomplished, polished general all year long. Given that the Pumas could well match the Sharks up front, the decision-making of the flyhalves will be crucial and Boshoff faces a big test in Durban.

Sharks take Louw road in response to Lions employing services of Odendaal at 13 0

Posted on October 08, 2020 by Ken

With the Lions springing a surprise by employing the battering ram services of Burger Odendaal at outside centre, forming a bulky midfield pairing with Dan Kriel, much attention was focused on the Sharks’ selection on Wednesday and who they will play in the No.12 jersey when they meet the Gauteng side in Durban on Friday night.

With captain Lukhanyo Am assured of his outside centre spot, Sharks coach Sean Everitt has gone for the stockier option at No.12, preferring Marius Louw to Jeremy Ward. Although Louw is six centimetres shorter than Ward at 1.81m, he weighs eight kilogrammes more at 94kg. Of course neither Louw nor Ward have the physical presence of the Sharks’ long-time inside centre Andre Esterhuizen, the 110kg Springbok who has joined English club Harlequins, but they both have much to add, with Ward warming the bench on Friday night.

“The competition between Marius and Jeremy is always close and we had lengthy selection discussions about it. We just felt that when Marius came on against the Bulls on SuperFan Saturday he played particularly well and brought a lot of energy. But they are both very good players and leaders, and Marius just pipped Jeremy this week.

“Playing Odendaal at 13 means the Lions will have a big centre combination with Kriel at 12. We’re expecting something different from them, they may have moved away from their DNA a bit, away from continuity and ball-in-hand rugby a bit,” Everitt said.

Facing off against Odendaal as his direct opponent and not seeing him at inside centre is also going to be different for Am, who locked horns with the new Lions signing many times while he was up the road at the Bulls.

“I’ve never gone head-to-head with Burger but I have huge respect for him having played against him several times. He will bring experience and leadership to the Lions, and probably the same game he had at the Bulls – he takes on defenders and he carries the ball pretty hard. That’s what I expect from him, the Lions have quite a big centre pairing now and we expect a physical battle,” Am said.

Springbok Sevens star Werner Kok, making his official Sharks debut, has been paired with veteran JP Pietersen as the wings, with Madosh Tambwe expected to be fit for their next Super Rugby Unlocked game, away at the Bulls after next week’s bye, and Yaw Penje, signed on a short-term contract, still assimilating into the squad.

Ox Nche forms a powerful propping partnership with World Cup winner Thomas du Toit, and Everitt said he is really happy with the improvement shown in the Sharks’ scrummaging since the start of the year.

“Their great form really started early on in Super Rugby. We had a few issues at the start of the year in our scrum and there were plenty of critics. But since then the scrum has gone from strength to strength. I thought they stood up well against the Bulls two weeks ago and Ox and Thomas carried that through to last weekend’s Green and Gold game. Ox getting one over Ruan Dreyer of the Lions last weekend will add some spice to Friday night and it will be an interesting battle,” Everitt said.

Sharks team: Manie Libbok, JP Pietersen, Lukhanyo Am, Marius Louw, Werner Kok, Curwin Bosch, Sanele Nohamba, Sikumbuzo Notshe, Phendulani Buthelezi, James Venter, Hyron Andrews, Ruben van Heerden, Thomas du Toit, Dylan Richardson, Ox Nche. Replacements – Dan Jooste, Mzamo Majola, John-Hubert Meyer, JJ van der Mescht, Mpilo Gumede, Grant Williams, Jeremy Ward, Thaakir Abrahams.

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