Sharks vs Brumbies preview for today

by Mike Greenaway

Over the course of 15 years of Super Rugby, the Sharks have settled into a distinctive pattern when it comes to matches against the Brumbies that is not unlike the relationship the Springboks have with the Wallabies – the home side invariably wins.

The Sharks’ sole win in Canberra came way back in Ian McIntosh’ time in the late 90s, while the Brumbies only ever victory over the Sharks in Durban was a shock in 2007, the year the Sharks went on to host the final.

That year, the Sharks were heavy favourites but the Brumbies were brilliant on the day and George Gregan’s men out-thought the Sharks and scored cleverly constructed, pre-meditated tries from set pieces.

The Sharks were literally left with gaping jaws.

Cut to 2011, and the popular view is that it would take a Brumbies performance of similar wiliness to upset a home team that has been chastised to hell and back for their limp-wristed capitulation to the Stormers last week.

In 2007, the Sharks were on a roll when they ran into a Brumbies ambush. They were cruising through the rounds and were lulled into complacency.

This time around, they have the accusation levelled against them by their own management that they played like “boys against men” at Newlands and, on a more sobering level, there is the realisation that a home defeat could just about scupper their chances of making the play-offs.

The Sharks have their second bye next week and it is beyond vital for them that they bank four or five points from tomorrow’s home game to add to the four guaranteed from the bye to set them up for an assault on the knock-out stage – after the bye the Sharks have two home games (Waratahs, Bulls) and then end with three away games to the Cheetahs, Lions and Bulls.

So it is no surprise that the Brumbies are gearing up for a highly physical onslaught.

After their training session yesterday at Northwood High School, captain Matt Giteau said:

“All you have to do is look at the media reports where Willem Alberts said they were a bit off mentally against the Stormers and that had affected their physicality. Well, we always expect the Sharks to be highly physical and after a loss, even more so. We’re prepared for that and that’s what we’re getting ready for.”

Giteau, one of the games’ all-time greats, said he had been surprised at how tough management and local media had been on the Sharks after their 32-12 defeat in Cape Town.

“Maybe the Sharks built the game up a bit too much and with the form they had they expected to win. So they’re obviously very disappointed and have been hard on themselves. We watched the game and it seemed very brutal – almost like a Test match, including the media build-up. We’re expecting a similar game.”

The match is primed for a spectacularly explosive opening quarter given that the visitors aim to fight fire with fire. Giteau, who has been moved back to 10 from 12 for this match, said his team was in the starting blocks.

“We can’t get off to the sort of start we had against the Cheetahs (22-0 after as many minutes),” he said. “The Sharks have generally been in very good form and we need to start well, be prepared for the physical stuff that is definitely coming and take our chances when they come.”

The Sharks team announced yesterday shows Willem Alberts moved to No 8 from flank for injured Ryan Kankowski (eye socket), which opens the door at blindside flank for Jean Deysel to have his first start of the year, while in the second row, Alistair Hargreaves comes in for Ross Skeate, who has been dropped to the Sharks XV for their semi-final against the Pumas tomorrow in a move that is equally about giving Hargreaves a chance after injury as it is about Skeate being one of the few locks in the greater squad eligible to play in the Vodacom Cup (four Super matches rules you out).

Sharks: 15 Louis Ludik, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Stefan Terblanche (capt), 12 Meyer Bosman, 11 JP Pietersen, 10 Pat Lambie, 9 Charl McLeod, 8 Willem Alberts, 7 Jean Deysel, 6 Keegan Daniel, 5 Alistair Hargreaves, 4 Steven Sykes, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Beast Mtawarira.
Substitutes: Craig Burden, Eugene van Staden, Anton Bresler, Marcel Coetzee, Conrad Hoffmann, Adi Jacobs, Lwazi Mvovo.

Brumbies: 15 Pat McCabe, 14 Andrew Smith, 13 Tyrone Smith, 12 Christian Lealiifano, 11 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 10 Matt Giteau, 9 Pat Phibbs, 8 Ita Vaea, 7 Colby Faingaa, 6 Mitch Chapman, 5 Mark Chisholm, 4 Peter Kimlin, 3 Jono Owen, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Ben Alexander.
Substitutes: Huia Edmonds, Salesi Ma’afu, Ben Hand, Michael Hooper, Josh Valentine, Robbie Coleman, Franky Fainifo.

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