PREVIEW: Highlanders v Sharks
Wednesday, April 20, 2016 allblacks.com Getty Images
ROUND NINE: Highlanders v Sharks, Friday 22 April, 7.35pm, Forsyth Barr Stadium
TALE OF THE TAPE
The Highlanders are on a hot streak of eight consecutive wins at home and have won five of their last seven matches against South African sides. The Sharks came close to picking up a win in Auckland last week and will take confidence from their 2014 qualifying finals victory over the Highlanders.
Can't wait to get back out there this Friday night. Another opportunity to do what I love. #GameTime pic.twitter.com/K6XxTqX5Yb— Malakai Fekitoa (@MalakaiFekitoa) April 20, 2016TURNOVER KINGS
Although the Sharks loose forward trio aren’t household names on this side of the world, their work at the breakdown has been superb this season. The Sharks turnover rate of 9.3 per match is the most in the competition and well ahead of the Highlanders on 5.9 per match. The home-side will have to be on top of their game to combat the ravenous pair of Jean-Luc du Preez and Keegan Daniel at the crucial ruck area.
Hard running Elliot Dixon is quickly putting himself into All Blacks contention with his uncompromising style of play. Highlanders assistant coach Scott McLeod said: “He makes the most tackles for us, he makes the most dominant hits, ball in hand he’s a powerhouse and he’s got a great offload, skill and vision”. If the 26-year-old flanker can continue his form on Saturday, then it is sure to be a long night for the Sharks defenders.
TRY THIEF! Can @MaoriGC repeat these try scoring antics vs the Sharks this weekend?!#HIGvSHA @Highlanders https://t.co/ma6CkFjbme— Super Rugby (@SuperRugbyNZ) April 20, 2016SHARK ATTACK
In Willie Le Roux, Odwa Ndungane and JP Pietersen, the Sharks boast three of the most potent attacking weapons in Super Rugby. Fullback Le Roux is in the top 10 for most metres gained in the competition while Pietersen has long been recognised as one of the most dangerous backs in South Africa. Although aged 35, Ndungane has lost none of the speed that saw him earn nine Springbok caps from 2008-11.
With every point crucial in the New Zealand conference, expect a classic encounter under the roof at Forsyth Barr. ANZAC commemorations will also be held at the ground ahead of ANZAC day on Monday June 25. Get your TICKETS HERE and experience the action LIVE!
Highlanders: 15: Ben Smith 14: Matt Faddes 13: Malakai Fekitoa 12: Jason Emery 11: Jack Wilson 10: Lima Sopoaga 9: Aaron Smith 8: Liam Squire 7: Shane Christie 6: Elliot Dixon 5: Joe Wheeler 4: Tom Franklin 3: Josh Hohneck 2: Ash Dixon 1: Daniel Lienert-Brown
Reserves: 16: Liam Coltman 17: Craig Millar 18: Ross Geldenhuys 19: Alex Ainley 20: Dan Pryor 21: Fumiaki Tanaka 22: Hayden Parker 23: Patrick Osborne
Sharks: 15: Willie Le Roux 14: Odwa Ndungane 13: JP Pietersen 12: Andre Esterhuizen 11: Lwazi Mvovo 10: Garth April 9: Cobus Reinach 8: Philip Van der Walt 7: Jean Luc du Preez 6: Keegan Daniel 5: Stephan Lewies 4: Etienne Oosthuizen 3: Coenie Oosthuizen 2: Franco Marais 1: Tendai Mtawarira (C)
Reserves: 16: Chiliboy Ralepelle 17: Thomas du Toit 18: Lourens Adriaanse 19: Hyron Andrews 20: Jean Deysel 21: Michael Claassens 22: Joe Pietersen 23: S’bura Sithole