The Bulls head to Durban to take on the Sharks in Round 15 of the 2013 Super Rugby tournament; the two long-running rivals will be showing no mercy towards one another come kick-off.
The Sharks’ Springbok flyhalf Pat Lambie needs 17 points to become only the fifth player in South African rugby history to achieve 500 Vodacom Super Rugby points.
Lambie, who has amassed 139 points in his 12 matches for The Sharks this season, will follow in the footsteps of four other Springboks if he can reach the magical mark of 500 points.
His direct opponent on Saturday, the Vodacom Bulls’ Morné Steyn, is the leading South African points’ scorer in Vodacom Super Rugby on 1,364 (and second overall behind Dan Carter).
The DHL Stormers’ Peter Grant is second on the list with 819 points, followed by André Pretorius (Cats, MTN Lions – 661) and current Springbok kicking consultant Louis Koen (DHL Stormers, Vodacom Bulls, Cats – 555).
Looking ahead to the game, Sharks coach John Plumtree reiterated the importance of Saturday’s derby. His team won last weekend, but before that a bad run of five consecutive defeats put their playoff aspirations at serious risk.
“This is a big game for both teams,” said Plumtree. “The Bulls have been playing really well lately, their forwards have dominated and they’re enjoying momentum. They’ve also dominated territory through their kicking game, they’ve dominated upfront and we know it’s going to be a really tough game for us.
“Although our preparation this week has been quite short, we have trained well, and we’re looking forward to putting our plans into place and the boys can go out there and enjoy the massive clash that this game is.
“It’s great to be back home, to play at our stadium and hopefully we’ll get a really nice crowd on Saturday.”
Vodacom Bulls coach Frans Ludeke said his team realised pulling off an away victory in Durban will not be easy, but it will significantly boost their chances of winning the SA conference.
“It is a vital game for us,” said Ludeke. “The Sharks are fresh and back at home and we know they are going to have a huge go at us, so it’s vital for us to be at our best.”
As the captain last year when the Vodacom Bulls got a big hiding in Durban, by 32-10, Pierre Spies knows Saturday’s game will be no walk in the park, despite The Sharks struggling to get good results in the last month or so.
“It’s always tough against the Sharks. They scored a vital last win on tour to get their campaign back on track, while it’s always difficult to play them in Durban,” said Spies.
Vodacom Bulls wing Bjorn Basson will earn his 50th Vodacom Super Rugby cap in Durban on Saturday – he has played nine for the Toyota Cheetahs and 40 for the team from Pretoria.
The teams are:
The Sharks: Riaan Viljoen, Odwa Ndungane, Piet Lindeque, Meyer Bosman, Lwazi Mvovo, Pat Lambie, Charl McLeod, Keegan Daniel (captain), Willem Alberts, Marcell Coetzee, Franco van der Merwe, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Jannie du Plessis, Kyle Cooper, Tendai Mtawarira. Replacements: Monde Hadebe, Wiehahn Herbst, Jandré Marais, Jean Deysel, Lubabalo Mtembu, Tian Meyer, Sean Robinson.
Vodacom Bulls: Jürgen Visser, Akona Ndungane, JJ Engelbrecht, Wynand Olivier, Bjorn Basson, Morné Steyn, Francois Hougaard, Pierre Spies (captain), Dewald Potgieter, Deon Stegmann, Juandré Kruger, Flip van der Merwe, Frik Kirsten, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Dean Greyling. Replacements: Willie Wepener, Werner Kruger, Grant Hattingh, Arno Botha, Jano Vermaak, Louis Fouché / Jan Serfontein, Lionel Mapoe.
The Sharks v Vodacom Bulls
Date: Saturday, 25 May
SA Time: 19h10
Venue: Kings Park, Durban
Referee: Jonathan Kaplan (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Craig Joubert (South Africa), Reuben Rossouw (South Africa)
Television match official: Deon van Blommestein (South Africa)