Preview: Sharks v Blues

Keven Mealamu 1582072450
Just how the Blues can overcome the losses of Troy Flavell and Rua Tipoki, and the travel to South Africa could determine their fate.

VENUE & TIME: Kings Park, Durban, Saturday April 22, 15:00 SAT.

HEAD TO HEAD: Played 12 - Sharks 4, Blues 8.

LAST TIME: April 16, 2005 (Auckland) - Blues 36 -13 Sharks.

WALKING WOUNDED: The Blues will be without blindside flanker Troy Flavell and suspended Rua Tipoki. The Sharks have concerns with wing Henno Mentz and fullback JP Pietersen. However, it is hoped that Pietersen will be fit to play. Others with niggles are wing Odwaa Ndungane (groin), centre Adrian Jacobs (virus), halfback Ruan Pienaar (abdominal muscle and prop Deon Carstens (groin).

FORM: After their victory over the Cats last weekend, in the face of much provocation, the Sharks will be looking to continue the same sort of upward curve in the competition that the Blues have enjoyed. While the New Zealanders have been winning of late, they have yet to put their complete game together. Hooker Keven Mealamu has the tight five performing and they will need to step up against the bigger South African pack.

WHO'S HOT: First five-eighths Luke McAlister was in outstanding touch against the Force, creating openings, kicking well and running with effect. The level of competition this time around is higher but it will be another step on McAlister's road back. There was a good balance of possession achieved at lineout and scrum as well, and this will be well tested in Durban. Tony Brown, the former All Black, provides a good balance, especially with his kicking game.

WE THINK: Without the dancing feet of Tipoki, the Blues may find it a little harder to prise open holes in the defences. But if they do, the Sharks will need to watch out.

TEAMS:

Sharks: 1 - Deon Carstens, 2 - John Smit (captain), 3 - BJ Botha, 4 - Johan Ackermann, 5 - Johann Muller, 6 - Warren Britz, 7 - Jacques Botes, 8 - AJ Venter, 9 - Ruan Pienaar, 10 - Tony Brown, 11 - Cedric Mkhize, 12 - Andries Strauss, 13 - Adrian Jacobs, 14 - Odwa Ndungane, 15 - Percy Montgomery.

Reserves: 16 - Bismarck du Plessis, 17 - Heinke van der Merwe, 18 - Albert van den Berg, 19 - Keegan Daniel, 20 - Scott Mathie, 21 - Bradley Barritt, 22 - Brent Russell

Blues: 1 - Tony Woodcock, 2 - Keven Mealamu (Captain), 3 - John Afoa, 4 - Greg Rawlinson, 5 - Ali Williams, 6 - Anthony Boric, 7 - Daniel Braid, 8 - Nick Williams, 9 - John Senio, 10 - Luke McAlister, 11 - Joe Rokocoko, 12 - Isa Nacewa, 13 - Anthony Tuitavake, 14 - Doug Howlett, 15 - Brent Ward.

Reserves: 16 - Tim Dow, 17 - Saimone Taumoepeau, 18 - Jerome Kaino, 19 - Onosai'i Tololima-Auava'a, 20 - Junior Poluleuligaga, 21 - Ben Atiga, 22 - Viliame Waqaseduadua.
Keven Mealamu 1582072450