John Plumtree (Gallo Images)
Cape Town - The Highlanders, on the back of last weekend’s bye, will be hell bent on winning their first match of the Super Rugby season when they host the Sharks at the Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin on Saturday (09:35 SA time).
Their eight straight losses in 2013, is the Highlanders’ worst start ever to a Super Rugby season. In 2008, they lost their first six of the season before beating the Lions in Dunedin.
The Sharks, on the back of three consecutive defeats, will not underestimate the struggling team from Otago this weekend. The KwaZulu-Natalians showed a lot of resolve last weekend to fight back against the Chiefs, but still didn’t do enough to win.
The Sharks coach John Plumtree was however happy with the four tries his team scored in Hamilton for only their second try-scoring bonus point of the season after they had gone try-less for three matches before that.
“We took a step up in the try-scoring department against the Chiefs when we scored four tries against the current champions and we’re hoping we can continue that this week against the Highlanders,” said Plumtree.
“We took some confidence out of the way we played, but at end of day, we lost and that’s disappointing. The players are really disappointed. They’ve lost three games in a row and we’re under pressure now, we can’t really afford to lose any more and we have to create that desperate edge that will drive us hard on the weekend.
“It’s tough times for all of us but the players need to have the confidence to go out there and play on the weekend - that’s certainly been something we’ve talked about.”
Odwa Ndungane, bracketed on the bench, will play in his 100th Super Rugby match this weekend if he gets game time. It will be his 90th in the colours of the Sharks, but he also played 10 matches at this level for the Bulls way back in 2004.
15. Ben Smith, 14. Phil Burleigh, 13. Tamati Ellison, 12. Shaun Treeby, 11. Hosea Gear, 10. Colin Slade, 9. Aaron Smith, 8. TJ Ioane, 7. John Hardie, 6. Jarrad Hoeata, 5. Josh Bekhuis, 4. Brad Thorn, 3. Chris King, 2. Andrew Hore (captain), 1. Tony Woodcock
Substitutes: 16. Liam Coltman, 17. Ma’afu Fia, 18. Elliot Dixon, 19. Joe Wheeler, 20. Fumiaka Tanaka, 21. Hayden Parker, 22. Jason Emery
15. Riaan Viljoen, 14. JP Pietersen, 13. Francois Steyn, 12. Meyer Bosman, 11. Lwazi Mvovo, 10. Patrick Lambie, 9. Charl McLeod, 8. Lubabalo Mtembu, 7. Marcell Coetzee, 6. Keegan Daniel (captain), 5. Franco van der Merwe, 4. Pieter-Steph du Toit, 3. Jannie du Plessis, 2. Kyle Cooper, 1. Wiehahn Herbst
Substitutes: 16. Craig Burden, 17. JC Janse van Rensburg, 18. Anton Bresler, 19. Jean Deysel, 20. Tian Meyer, 21. Piet Lindeque, 22. Odwa Ndungane/Derick Minnie