The Western Force face a daunting task when they take on the Sharks in their Super Rugby encounter in Durban on Saturday.
The home side’s last match against Australian opposition was one to forget as they battled to get going in a dour game against the Rebels in Round 9 and eventually had to settle for a 9-9 draw.
They bounced back in style against the Jaguares in Buenos Aires last weekend, however, and delivered an impressive all-round performance before claiming a 33-25 victory.
That result and the fact that they have dominated matches against the Force over the years will give head coach Robert du Preez and his charges plenty of confidence.
Sharks centre Jeremy Ward feels his side must kick on after last weekend’s win over the Jaguares.
“Momentum is everything and this week’s quote is something we want to embrace: ‘Good teams maintain momentum but great teams increase momentum,’ he said.
“That’s what we’re looking to do this week, to keep pushing forward and really step up. We want to play better rugby, especially at home to give our fans a performance they really enjoy.”
The Sharks have won eight of the nine meetings between these sides before this round, including each of the last seven with the Force’s last win registered way back in 2007.
The home side are undefeated in their last eight games at home (W7, D1); the last time they went longer at home without a loss was a stretch of nine wins across 2008 and 2009.
The Force travel to South Africa for the first time since Round 15 last season – they’ve won just one of their last 10 games there. The men from Perth have allowed their opponents just 7.8 offloads per game this campaign, fewer than any other team in the competition.
Sharks pivot Curwin Bosch is the first player to surpass 100 points scored this season thanks largely to a tally of 26 penalty goals, which is 10 more than any other player in the tournament.
Both these sides have battled to score tries this season with the Sharks 15th highest in that department with 20 tries scored this season while the Force are in 17th spot with three fewer tries.
The Sharks will hoping to use the scrum as an attacking platform as they are joint second highest – with the Stormers – in that category with a 98 percent success rate at the set-piece.
The last time the teams met: The Sharks claimed a scrappy 15-9 win when these sides met in Durban in a Round 7 clash in 2015. For the Sharks, SP Marais and Lwazi Mvovo scored tries and Fred Zeilinga slotted a conversion and a penalty. The Force’s points came two penalties from Sias Ebersohn and Luke Burton also added a three-pointer from the kicking tee.
Team news: The Sharks have received a boost with the inclusion of Springbok fly-half Pat Lambie who has been named amongst the replacements. Lambie has not played for the Sharks since injuring his back against the Waratahs in Round 3, but his return is a most welcome one. In other changes, there are two new wings this week with Kobus van Wyk also returning from injury. He takes over from Odwa Ndungane while the exciting Sbu Nkosi, who is making his debut, has replaced Bok wing Lwazi Mvovo who has been rested this week. In the forwards, there is rotation in the second row with Stephan Lewies making way for Etienne Oosthuizen who is joined by the other Oosthuizen – Coenie – who comes in for Lourens Adriaanse at tighthead prop.
Meanwhile, the Western Force have also received a shot in the arm after Wallaby lock Adam Coleman was named in their starting XV. Coleman returns from a calf injury suffered against the Reds in Round Two as one of only two changes to the side from Round 10, with Jono Lance returning at fly-half. Wallaby hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau is set to play is 150th match of Super Rugby, and will look to continue his fine form on Saturday. In the only other change to the 23, Francois van Wyk comes onto the bench replacing the injured Ben Daley.
Form: The Sharks have won six out of nine matches so far this season. Those victories were registered against the Brumbies, Waratahs, Kings, Cheetahs and against the Jaguares in Durban and Buenos Aires. They also suffered defeats against the Reds and Lions and drew with the Rebels.
The Force’s only victories came against the Reds in Round 2 and the Kings in Round 7. They also suffered losses to the Waratahs, Crusaders, Brumbies, Blues, Chiefs and Lions.
2015: Sharks won 15-9 in Durban
2013: Sharks won 23-13 in Perth
2012: Sharks won 53-11 in Durban
2011: Sharks won 39-12 in Perth
2010: Sharks won 27-22 in Durban
2009: Sharks won 22-10 in Perth
2008: Sharks won 17-10 in Durban
2007: Force won 22-12 in Perth
Sharks: 15 Rhyno Smith, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Jeremy Ward, 11 Sbu Nkosi, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Michael Claassens, 8 Daniel du Preez, 7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Philip van der Walt (c), 5 Ruan Botha, 4 Etienne Oosthuizen, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Thomas du Toit
Replacements: 16 Franco Marais, 17 Beast Mtawarira, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 Stephan Lewies, 20 Tera Mtembu, 21 Cobus Reinach, 22 Patrick Lambie, 23 Johan Deysel
Western Force: 15 Marcel Brache, 14 James Verity-Amm, 13 Curtis Rona, 12 Billy Meakes, 11 Alex Newsome, 10 Jono Lance, 9 Ian Prior, 8 Isireli Naisarani, 7 Matt Hodgson (c), 6 Brynard Stander, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Ross Haylett-Petty, 3 Tetara Faulkner, 2 Tatafu Polata-Nau, 1 Pek Cowan
Replacements: 16 Heath Tessmann, 17 Francios van Wyk, 18 Shambeckler Vui, 19 Lewis Carmichael, 20 Richard Hardwick, 21 Mitchell Short, 22 Luke Burton, 23 Peter Grant
Date: Saturday, May 6
Venue: Kings Park, Durban
Kick-off: 15:05 local (13:05 GMT)
Referee: Rasta Rasivhenge (South Africa)
Assistant Referees: Quinton Immelman (South Africa), Archie Sehlako (South Africa)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)