Saturday 19 May 2007

Super 14 Final Preview

- Sharks vs. Bulls
- Durban
- K.O. 15:00 local
- On TV 14:00 Sky Sports Xtra

1 – Deon Carstens
2 – John Smit (captain)
3 – BJ Botha
4 – Johan Ackermann
5 – Johann Muller
6 – Jacques Botes
7 – AJ Venter
8 – Ryan Kankowski
9 – Ruan Pienaar
10 – Butch James
11 – JP Pietersen
12 – Bradley Barritt
13 – Waylon Murray
14 – Francois Steyn
15 – Percy Montgomery

1 – Guthro Steenkamp
2 – Gary Botha
3 – Rayno Gerber
4 – Bakkies Botha
5 – Victor Matfield (captain)
6 – Pedrie Wannenburg
7 – Wikus van Heerden
8 – Pierre Spies
9 – Fourie du Preez
10 – Derick Hougaard
11 – Bryan Habana
12 – Wynand Olivier
13 – JP Nel
14 – Akona Ndungane
15 – Johan Roets

Although the Sharks are playing this game at home they enter this final with the tag of underdog. Matfields' Bulls are a force to be reckoned with having dispatched the defending champions Canterbury with contemptuous ease in the semi-finals. They put McCaws' Crusaders to the sword by pummelling them into submission up front and I'd expect them to try some similar tactics today. They will be expecting a lot from their tight five, hoping that they dominate the Sharks not just at the set-piece but all over the park, at the breakdown and in open field. The Bulls would ideally like to see Bakkies and Matfield on top rampaging form today (Botha was immense when he came on as a sub in the semi) with Hougaard kicking the corners and the penalties all day long. The return of Du Preez at scrum-half brings back a considerable creative spark to their backs' division so there may be a more free-running Bulls' team on display in the final too. Even though Hougaard has a considerably talented bckline outside of him he was content just to let the forwards do alll the work in the semi, he gave them field position with his kicking out of hand and let them run all over their hapless New Zealand counterparts. Unless the Sharks can mount some kind of answer to the bullying Bulls tight five they're gonna find themselves in a whole heap of trouble.

Whilst the Bulls were happy to beat Canterbury into submission up front the Sharks adopted a much more expansive game in their semi, opting to defeat the Blues at their own game, fighting fire with fire. The gamble paid off and although there was a period of concern midway through the match the Sharks eventually coasted to a semi win of near record margin, just like their final opponents. To compete with the Bulls the Sharks are gonna have to match them up front. If they are unable to at least contain the Bulls' pack they'll find themselves in the exact same situation as the Crusaders were in last week; starved of the ball, forced to give away penalty after penalty and camped in their own half for loooooong periods of the game. I reckon the Sharks will look to play a similar style of game to the one that saw them home against the Blues, relying on the ingenuity of their backline to open the Bulls' defence whilst hoping to simply achieve parity with the Bulls' pack.

That being said the Bulls' back division isn't exactly shabby, in fact on paper there is next to nothing seperating these teams. Emmm Sharks at home.... bit shaky in the semis... Bulls on fire... destroyed the Crusaders.... Botha and Matfield..
I call Bulls to win..c'mon the Bokke.. shit they're all South African...


Macka said...

a-haaaaa bitches I was right again, Habana you hero 20-19 Bulls win hurrah!!

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