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    Sharks to paint the town red!

    2012-03-16 08:03
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    Sport24 chief writer Rob Houwing (File)
    Cape Town - Rob Houwing, in his SA Super Rugby Week 4 preview, says the Sharks can issue a powerful message by seeing off the Reds.

    SPORT24 PICK OF THE CROP

    SHARKS v REDS, Durban

    When: Saturday, 17:05

    Referee: Jonathan Kaplan (SA)

    TV: M-Net, SS1, SHD

    Long-range weather forecast: Warm, moderate breeze, chance of rain.

    Background: This seems as good a time as any for the Sharks – even despite their own under-strength staffing at present – to lower the colours of the Quade Cooper-less defending champions. The Reds have come off not only the gruelling trek from Brisbane, but also unexpected resistance from the Melbourne Rebels in their last outing before they prevailed 11-6. John Plumtree’s charges will be feeling contrastingly more vibrant, having got their own first win under the belt against the Lions ... and may well only up their performance curve on Saturday. I am not suggesting this will be a walk in the park for the Sharks, mind you: last season the Reds toured South Africa superbly, earning a rare 100% win record as they saw off both the Lions and Stormers. 

    Key head-to-head: There will be an interesting clash of styles and physiques (and then some) when Sharks skipper KEEGAN DANIEL comes face to face – or looks straight into his rival’s chest, maybe? – with the Reds’ No 8 hulk and wearer of a particularly famous “afro” RADIKE SAMO. The latter’s 60-metre rampage for a try in the Tri-Nations decider against the All Blacks last season will not be forgotten for quite some time, and he will hope for a similar breakout somewhere along the line against the Sharks, no doubt! Daniel is an entirely different kettle of fish: nuggety, ultra-industrious and the kind of No 8 who doubles very effectively as a fetcher when necessary. Mind you, he’s also not averse to throwing the odd wicked dummy and then racing out of the blocks ...

    Recent history: These teams avoided each other in the first season of the conference system last year. But in 2010 they also met in Durban, and the Sharks stole a thriller 30-28, after trailing 21-9 early in the second half. Generally, their visits to KZN have not produced good returns for the Queenslanders, their last victory being 6-5 in that 2004 game legendary for its ... well, abject calibre of play over 80 masochistic minutes for fans!   

    Rob Houwing’s prediction: I have a surprisingly strong feeling that the scene is set for another Sharks win, which will stabilise them in a big way ... leaving the Reds to contemplate getting it right on tour against a well-rested Bulls outfit at Loftus. Sharks by seven points.

    SA GAME 2

    STORMERS v BLUES, Cape Town

    When: Friday, 19:10

    Referee: Glen Jackson (NZ)

    TV: M-Net, SS1, SHD

    Long-range weather forecast: Mild, moderate breeze.

    Background: Most wily Super Rugby monitors felt in pre-season that the Blues would at least be “thereabouts” this season, so it was a surprise when they quickly slipped to nought from two. But was that fine triumph at Loftus a return to more normal service? It seems like it, so the Stormers would be daft not to be strongly on their guard in this floodlit affair. Nevertheless, the Bulls were often their own worst enemies in last week’s minor upset, so Jean de Villiers and company may know deep down that if they stick to their script, one normally marked by admirable discipline, they should yet have the beating of these foes and retain their unbeaten record.

    Key head-to-head: The Blues are going to miss injured Anthony Boric in the lineout duels, but still have the seasoned, stormy-petrel All Black ALI WILLIAMS in their second row and skipper Keven Mealamu reckons the big fellow is looking forward to the challenge of even lankier ANDRIES BEKKER in the battle of the No 5s at Newlands. The Blues do acknowledge that “you don’t get anyone taller or more athletic” than the Stormers beanpole in the competition, and you can bet they’ll have some sort of plan to try to stifle his command of the home team’s revered rolling mauls, too ...

    Recent history: Last season’s Auckland thriller was one of the most dramatic matches of the entire campaign, with the touring Stormers – under pressure after successive overseas reverses – overturning an ominous 19-3 deficit to snatch it 28-26 courtesy of Schalk Burger’s try in the 79th minute and emergency flyhalf Dewaldt Duvenage’s just-as-important conversion. They also beat the Blues away the previous season, although the New Zealanders do boast victory in the last Newlands meeting – 14-8 in 2009.

    Rob Houwing’s prediction: Stormers by four points, with the Newlands faithful witnessing a few tries after that grinding, all-kicks triumph over the Sharks a fortnight back (though perhaps not enough touchdowns for either side to earn a bonus point in that way). It’s been a short turnaround for the Blues from Loftus, considering this is a Friday clash, while the Stormers may be freshened by their bye.

    SA GAME 3

    REBELS v CHEETAHS, Melbourne

    When: Sunday, 07:10 SA time

    Referee: Garratt Williamson (NZ)

    TV: M-Net, SS1, SHD

    Long-range weather forecast: Partly cloudy, mild, windless.

    Background: I fancy that the Cheetahs’ prospects of winning this one (Sunday morning our time, note) may hinge very much on their mindset after the gut-wrenching, controversial last-gasp loss to the Brumbies. Will they go into their follow-up tour match demoralised about staying winless? Or will the perceived injustice of the Canberra occasion fire them up to rare levels of intensity? This is probably the “easiest” of their Antipodean fixtures; it only gets tougher as they cross the ditch. As for the oft-ridiculed Rebels, they may only have taken heart from the commendable account they gave of themselves against the Reds last weekend ...

    Key head-to-head: Somebody has got to try to closely police that slippery, versatile customer JAMES O’CONNOR in the Rebels’ midfield, and the task – fairly handily – falls upon eligible-again ANDRIES STRAUSS, one of those rugged, no-nonsense sort of No 12s who thrives on a defensive role and the chance to rattle some opposition bones. He is back after serving a two-week suspension for a tip tackle and the Cheetahs will hope he isn’t rusty as they attempt to keep the baby-faced Wallaby (likely to be his opposite number; the Rebels were slow in naming their team this week) from wreaking attacking havoc.

    Recent history: These sides’ only previous meeting, in the Rebels’ maiden season last year, saw the Cheetahs land a forceful enough punch in prevailing 41-21 in Bloemfontein, stretching a latish-season hot streak by them to four wins on the trot. They ran in five tries, including two each for Adriaan Strauss and Corne Uys – don’t expect a similar romp in Melbourne!

    Rob Houwing’s prediction: Sorry Cheetahs, but as much as I’d love to see them get out of the blocks at last in 2012, they always find touring tough and I’m tipping the limited Rebels purely on the basis of home advantage. Ouch, Rebels by eight?

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    Fixtures

    25 April 2014
    • Blues v Waratahs, Auckland 07:35
    • Brumbies v Chiefs, Canberra 09:40
    • Sharks v Highlanders, Durban 19:10
    26 April 2014
    • Hurricanes v Reds, Wellington 09:35
    • Western Force v Bulls, Perth 11:40
    • Cheetahs v Stormers, Bloemfontein 17:05
    02 May 2014
    • Blues v Reds, Auckland 09:35
    • Melbourne Rebels v Sharks, Melbourne 11:40

    Results

    19 April 2014
    18 April 2014
    12 April 2014
    11 April 2014
    05 April 2014
    04 April 2014
    29 March 2014
    28 March 2014
    22 March 2014
    21 March 2014
    15 March 2014
    14 March 2014
    08 March 2014
    07 March 2014
    01 March 2014
    28 February 2014
    23 February 2014
    22 February 2014
    21 February 2014
    15 February 2014

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