Frédéric Michalak (Gallo Images)
Johannesburg – Will Sharks coach John Plumtree have an ace up his sleeve to catch the Bulls off guard in Saturday’s Super Rugby match in Pretoria?
The Sharks can’t dream about beating the Bulls if they perform like they have in recent weeks – and especially not with the kind of play they produced in the first clash between the teams in Durban.
There has to be an element of surprise.
Something out of the ordinary has to be done to get the victory that many supporters believe is out of the Sharks’ reach.
The broken hand that will sideline Odwa Ndungane for another week or two is a major blow for the Sharks. Plumtree could have picked him as fullback to get more strike power from the back.
Louis Ludik is solid in the No 15 jersey, but is not offering that little bit extra on attack that Jaco Taute and Riaan Viljoen provide at the Lions and Cheetahs respectively.
The fluency that suddenly appeared in the backline when Frederic Michalak was sent on at flyhalf and Patrick Lambie moved to fullback may prompt Plumtree into picking that combination for his starting line-up against the Bulls.
Plumtree was full of praise for the experience that Michalak showed and his maturity in a crisis situation.
Lambie started his Super Rugby career last year as a fullback and while the youngster has not yet played there this year due to Ludik being in the team, it’s now a situation of desperate times calling for desperate measures.
Springbok wings JP Pietersen and Lwazi Mvovo are in excellent form and another attacking player in the back three may just be able to provide the spark that the Sharks will need at Loftus.
The Sharks attacked from everywhere on the field in the last quarter of the match against the Lions.
Up front the return of Willem Alberts and Jean Deysel will be a boost and their ball-carrying ability can test the Bulls.
“We will have to be a lot more clinical and ensure that we win our lineout ball. We had to make 30 tackles inside six or seven minutes against the Lions just because we conceded lineout possession. That is the kind of thing that hurts you,” said Plumtree.
“The Bulls will also use lineout drives against us and we need to be aware of that. The guys hate conceding tries like that (two against the Lions) and we will have to ensure they don’t dominate us in that area.”