The Cell C Sharks are targeting an effective start to the Vodacom Super Rugby match against the Rebels in the second match on tour when they taken on Australia’s top side on Friday.
Head coach Robert du Preez identified a slow start to the match against the Brumbies on Saturday as a problem area to resolve when they take on the Rebels in Melbourne.
“It’s a difficult one, we started badly and gave away too many penalties in the first few minutes against the Brumbies, and that meant we simply couldn’t get any momentum going,” he explained from Australia. Coupled with that, we never got possession which meant we were always on the back foot.
“As a team you have to fight back from those setbacks to get into the game. The Brumbies are a very good team and although they had lost two games, they were back at home with a huge point to prove and get their campaign on track. It was a really tough day at the office.”
It goes without saying that the coach will be looking for a strong start from his charges against the Rebels on Friday.
“It’s an absolute priority to start well against these guys, I have no doubt that if we do start well and we get on a roll, we will be difficult to stop,” he said. “I’m quietly confident that it will be a good evening.”
There are no major injury issues, and although there is a blow in the midfield, there is capable back-up.
“We have a couple of niggles, Andre Esterhuizen is out this weekend with an ankle sprain, but Marius Louw is an able replacement, while Beast Mtawarira will be back for the game,” he confirmed.
“That’s rugby, I guess. Injuries are part and parcel of the sport, but we have depth in the squad to deal with those concerns.”
In other changes, Wian Vosloo shifts to the bench with Jacques Vermeulen taking his place, to accommodate Jean-Luc du Preez who returns to the starting line-up.
Both changes amongst the backs are at wing, Lwazi Mvovo replacing Makazole Mapimpi on the left wing, while Sbu Nkosi is back, in place of Kobus van Wyk on the right wing.
Despite last week’s loss, Friday presents a real opportunity to right the ship and the team is well aware of that, and excited at the challenge that lies ahead.
“This team is a team with a lot of character,” the coach admitted. “Vodacom Super Rugby is a tough competition so you have to take the good with the bad and move on from disappointment, which we have.
“There’s really a good feeling and energy in the camp, our preparation has been on target, although it has been a short turnaround for us, given that the two games are only six days apart and we also have to factor in travel.
“But the spirit amongst the team members is high.”
Sharks: 15 Curwin Bosch, 14 Sbu Nkosi, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Marius Louw, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Rob du Preez, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Tera Mtembu, 7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Jacques Vermeulen, 5 Stephan Lewies, 4 Ruan Botha (captain), 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Akker van der Merwe, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Franco Marais, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 John-Hubert Meyer, 19 Hyron Andrews, 20 Wian Vosloo, 21 Cameron Wright, 22 Kobus van Wyk, 23 Garth April.
Date: Friday, March 23
Venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne
Kick-off: 10.45 South Africa Time
Referee: Shuhei Kubo (Japan)
Assistant referees: Nicholas Berry (Australia), Damon Murphy (Australia)
TMO: Ian Smith (Australia)
Photo: Lwazi Mvovo. (Gallo Images)