Cape Town - The Sharks are back in Waikato, the scene of last season’s Super Rugby final which they remarkably qualified for despite having to fly to Brisbane and Cape Town for tough playoff matches.
The final against the Chiefs turned out to be one match too many after a rigorous travel schedule during which the Sharks clocked up close to 35 000km from Durban to Brisbane to Cape Town to Hamilton.
The defeat in the 2012 final was the Sharks’ fourth successive defeat against the Chiefs, something they will want to put right this weekend. But it won’t be easy - the last time the “Mooloo Men” got beaten at home by teams from South Africa, was three years ago when they lost on back-to-back weekends against the Bulls (19-33) and the Stormers (15-49).
A week after these two defeats, the Chiefs drew 25-25 with the Cheetahs in Hamilton.
The Chiefs will also be smarting after losing their last two Super Rugby encounters, at home against the Reds and then in Sydney against the Waratahs.
The Sharks, heavily hit by injuries, have named a severely changed team this weekend, with coach John Plumtree saying his side will have to forget what has happened in the last couple of weeks and do their best.
“We just have to dig in and do our best,” Plumtree said.
“We’ve worked really hard on our game, trying to improve our game, trying to improve our attack, but it is really difficult with all these (injury) setbacks.”
Kick off in Hamilton is at 09:35 (SA time) on Saturday.Teams:
15 Gareth Anscombe, 14 Lelia Masaga, 13 Tim Nanai-Williams, 12 Richard Kahui, 11 Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Augustine Pulu, 8 Nick Crosswell, 7 Tanerau Latimer, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Craig Clarke (captain), 3 Michael Kainga, 2 Mahonri Schwalger, 1 Toby Smith.
Substitutes: 16 Rhys Marshall, 17 Ben Tameifuna, 18 Michael Fitzgerald, 19 Sam Cane, 20 Brendon Leonard, 21 Bundee Aki, 22 Charlie Ngatai.Sharks:
15 Riaan Viljoen, 14 Odwa Ndungane
, 13 Francois Steyn
, 12 Meyer Bosman
, 11 Piet Lindeque, 10 Patrick Lambie
, 9 Charl McLeod, 8 Lubabalo Mtembu, 7 Jean Deysel (captain), 6 Derick Minnie, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Anton Bresler, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Craig Burden, 1 Wiehahn Herbst
Substitutes: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Danie Mienie, 18 Franco van der Merwe, 19 Keegan Daniel
, 20 Marcell Coetzee
, 21 Cobus Reinach
, 22 S'bura Sithole