Reds v Sharks preview

Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane, 19.40 (9.40 GMT)

The Sharks head for Brisbane where they will be in desperate need of a resuscitating win to their flagging campaign after having lost two games on the trot, seeing them drop from top of the log to fourth.

What has been worrying is their inability to score tries, and things are not necessarily going to get any easier against the Reds, who will no doubt be ready for a scrap.

The Reds have been desperately poor these last couple of rounds, but this week they are bolstered by the return of the likes of Hugh McMeniman, Clinton Schifcofske and Berrick Barnes.

But one needs to remember that this Reds side has not won since the first round of the year. If the Sharks can’t win this one, then they can’t win the Super 14.

The question will be what they are to do with that pressure – will it strangle any remains of the free-flowing game of last year, or will they turn it into inspiration?

The Sharks players have turned in too many average performances this year. It is time for a player like John Smit to remind us how he has somehow managed to become a Test veteran, while collectively the Sharks need to find a way to unleash some of their young talent.

“We’ve stretched our forwards a bit and we’ve been guilty of playing too much rugby behind the gain line. We’ve got to focus on keeping the ball in front of the forwards more,” Sharks forwards coach John Plumtree told Rugby365 earlier this week.

The Sharks have been flogging a dead horse as they persist with their one-dimensional style of forward-oriented attack. They will need a freshness to pervade their strategy for the remaining matches if they are to challenge the likes of the Crusaders.

Prediction: The Reds backline has a brittle look to it; if the Sharks can correct their over-emphasis on their pack they should exploit that. Their front row should also expose the depleted Reds. Sharks to win by ten points or more.

Teams:

Reds: 15 Clinton Schifcofske, 14 Andrew Walker, 13 Ben Tune, 12 Berrick Barnes, 11 Peter Hynes, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Nic Berry, 8 John Roe (c), 7 David Croft, 6 Mitch Chapman, 5 James Horwill, 4 Hugh McMeniman, 3 David Te Moana, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Tama Tuirirangi
Replacements: 16 Sean Hardman, 17 Herman Hunt, 18 Ed O’Donoghue, 19 Tom McVerry, 20 Will Genia, 21 Andrew Brown, 22 Brando Va’aulu

Sharks: 15 Francois Steyn, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Waylon Murray, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 JP Pietersen, 10 Butch James, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Bobby Skinstad, 6 Jacques Botes, 5 Johann Muller, 4 AJ Venter, 3 BJ Botha, 2 John Smit (c), 1 Deon Carstens
Replacements: 16 Bismarck du Plessis, 17 Beast Mtawarira, 18 Albert van den Berg, 19 Warren Britz, 20 Keegan Daniel/Grant Rees, 21 Rory Kockott, 22 Adrian Jacobs

Referee: Chris Pollock (New Zealand)
Touch judges: Lyndon Bray (New Zealand), James Leckie (Australia)
Television match official: Stuart Dickinson (Australia)
Assessor: Andrew Cole (Australia)

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