PREVIEW: Sharks v Blues

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Thursday, February 21, 2019    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Match Details: Sharks v Blues, Absa Stadium, Durban, 2.05am (NZT), February 24, 2019

Played: 24
Won: Sharks 15, Blues 9
Last time: Sharks 63-40 Blues, Eden Park, March 31, 2018
Referee: Paul Williams


Sharks attack coach David Williams said the Sunwolves win was the outcome they wanted – five points, a few tries scored. "The driving maul tries scored by the forwards especially were fantastic – we went with a clear plan to be aggressive and dominant, taking into account the humidity and early stage of the season, and we got exactly what we wanted out of the game." The Blues could take heart from their effort against the Crusaders but winners' points would be much more appreciated. There was a hint of the danger the Blues backs represent, all they need is consistently good ball.


Sharp-shooting Sharks first five-eighths Robert du Preez has warned his teammates they can't afford to lift themselves only against New Zealand sides this year. They showed their ability to take it to New Zealand teams last year by beating the Blues (away) and the Highlanders and Chiefs at home. They also lost only by a point to the Hurricanes away. "The opposition kind of bring the best out of you. I don't think we had a specific plan against the Kiwi sides. We just knew they were really big games. But we have got to change our mindset around that. We can't be up for a Kiwi game and then be down for an Aussie game. All games are the same and there are no easy games this year. We will look to build on what we did last year. It is a new year, [the Blues] are a new team, they have made some new signings so it's going to be a good battle on Saturday," he said.


Any hope the Blues have of lifting themselves up the Super Rugby ladder are dependent on redeveloping a forward pack to be feared. That test won't come any harder than against a Sharks team that appreciates nothing more than a good rumble up front. But there were signs from the Blues last week that they may be on the right path and with another week in the squad environment it will be of interest to assess the impact Karl Tu'inukuafe and Ofa Tuungafasi have. With hooker James Parsons in toe, lock and captain Patrick Tuipulotu and Josh Goodhue in toe, there is the ability to provide a good foundation. However, it will need everything the Blues have got to prevent the Sharks maul taking control.


No.8 Akira Ioane has gained more than 100m in two of his last four games for the Blues and the 20 carries he made last week against the Crusaders was the second highest he had made in Super Rugby, and the best by a forward in round one.


The Sharks have won 11 of their last 12 games against the Blues and the wins have been by an average of 10 points per game. They have also won their last five games at home.


Sharks: 1.Tendai Mtawarira, 2.Akker van der Merwe, 3.Coenie Oosthuizen, 4.Hyron Andrews, 5.Ruan Botha, 6.Jacques Vermeulen, 7.Tyler Paul, 8.Daniel du Preez, 9.Louis Schreuder, 10.Robert du Preez, 11.Makazole Mapimpi, 12.Andre Esterhuizen, 13.Lukhanyo Am, 14.Sbu Nkosi, 15.Aphelele Fassi.

Substitutes: 16.Kerron van Vuuren, 17.Juan Schoeman, 18.Thomas du Toit, 19.Gideon Koegelenberg, 20.Phepsi Buthelezi, 21.Cameron Wright, 22.Jeremy Ward, 23.Curwin Bosch.

Blues: 1.Karl Tu'inukuafe, 2.James Parsons, 3.Ofa Tuungafasi, 4.Patrick Tuipulotu (captain), 5.Josh Goodhue, 6.Tom Robinson, 7.Dalton Papalii, 8.Akira Ioane, 9.Jonathan Ruru, 10.Otere Black, 11.Rieko Ioane, 12.Sonny Bill Williams, 13.TJ Faiane, 14.Caleb Clarke, 15.Melani Nanai.

Substitutes: 16.Matt Moulds, 17.Alex Hodgman, 18.Sione Mafileo, 19.Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 20.Matt Matich, 21.Augustine Pulu, 22.Harry Plummer, 23.Tanielu Tele'a.