Super Rugby preview: Bulls v Sharks
By Sam Drury. Last Updated: 06/07/13 4:26pm
The Bulls take on the Sharks in Pretoria on Saturday as they look to take one of the top two positions in the Super Rugby table and progress automatically to the semi-finals of the play-offs.
They face a Sharks side who still have an outside chance of reaching the play-offs, but, lying in ninth place and four points from the top six means Hugh Reece-Edwards' men are relying on other results.
A last-gasp win over the Blues last weekend means the Sharks should be in good spirits and will hope to deny the Bulls what would be a ninth straight victory in their final home game of the regular season.
The Bulls welcome back experienced fly-half Mornè Steyn for the clash at Loftus Versfeld, one of three changes to the starting line-up.
Wynand Olivier has departed for France, so Jan Serfontein and JJ Engelbrecht combine again in the midfield, with Serfontein moving to his preferred inside berth. Frans Ludeke has also made a number of changes in his replacements.
The Bulls coach believes his team can compete with the Sharks despite a number of injuries.
"We have had a lot of disruptions since the squad returned and injuries to the likes of Pierre (Spies), Arno (Botha), Louis (Fouchè) and the departures of Wynand (Olivier) and Juandrè (Kruger) certainly did not make life easier for us," Ludeke said.
"Fortunately we have always backed the depth of our squad and that is bearing fruit. We will face a Sharks team that will be desperate, as they need to win to keep their play-off hopes alive, but we have also goals to achieve and to get there, we need to keep on winning."
His opposite number, Reece-Edwards is expecting a tough encounter but hopes the Sharks can cut out the errors that have cost them recently.
"We need to have everyone on song, all doing the same thing at the same time and our accuracy really needs to be there," he said.
"In the last couple of weeks it's let us down, against the Bulls in the last game as well as against the Blues there were a number of turnovers and we can't afford that against a quality side like this.
"Either they are going to kick us back into our 22 or they will punish us. We need to make sure we don't spill unnecessary ball."
Hooker Bismarck du Plessis returns for his first start of the year for the Sharks meaning Kyle Cooper drops to the bench. Otherwise the visitors are unchanged.
Bulls: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Dewald Potgieter (Captain), 7 Jacques Potgieter, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Grant Hattingh, 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Dean Greyling. Replacements: 16 Callie Visagie, 17 Frik Kirsten, 18 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 19 Jono Ross, 20 Jano Vermaak, 21 Jurgen Visser, 22 Morné Mellett
Sharks: 15 Riaan Viljoen, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Louis Ludik, 12 Butch James, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Patrick Lambie, 9 Charl McLeod, 8 Keegan Daniel (Captain), 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Edwin Hewitt, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Wiehahn Herbst, 18 Jandre Marais, 19 Jean Deysel, 20 Jacques Botes, 21 Cobus Reinach, 22 Jaco van Tonder