The Sharks are the first of the South African sides in Super Rugby 2019 action when they travel to meet the Sunwolves at the Singapore National Stadium on Saturday.
Sunwolves v Sharks, Saturday 16th February, Singapore, KO 12:55 (South African time)
Referee: Nic Berry
ARs: Marius van der Westhuizen, AJ Jacobs
TMO: Minoru Fuji
The Sunwolves finished with the wooden spoon last year, winning 3 and losing 13 of their matches. Those 3 victories came across the different home venues they use. Sunwolves fans had to wait until Round 13 to witness their side thump the Reds 63-28 in Tokyo and they went on to turn over the Stormers in Hong Kong (26-23) and the Bulls in Singapore (42-37). Earlier in the campaign they also came close to upsetting the Lions in Johannesburg (40-38) and since joining the tournament it’s fair to say their better moments have some against South African franchises.
The Sharks finished third in the South African Conference in 2018, working their way into the play offs with a regular season record of 7 wins, 1 draw and 8 defeats. They were 10 points behind the Lions and 2 shy of Jaguares in the round robin and their stay in the play offs was short lived as they crashed 40-10 to the Crusaders in Christchurch.
The Sharks won just once away from home last season, at the Blues in Round 7 but they almost upset the Hurricanes in Napier a week later.
In pre-season the Sharks lost 19-14 to the Lions in their leg of Super Hero Sunday in Cape Town and more recently they played out a 7-7 draw with the Bulls in Ballito.
Super Rugby 2019 Superbru Pool
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Sunwolves: 15 Gerhard van den Heever, 14 Semisi Masirewa, 13 Shane Gates, 12 Phil Burleigh, 11 Rene Ranger, 10 Hayden Parker, 9 Kaito Shigeno, 8 Rahboni Warren Vosayaco, 7 Ed Quirk, 6 Hendrik Tui, 5 James Moore, 4 Luke Thompson, 3 Asaeli Valu, 2 Jaba Bregvadze, 1 Craig Millar (captain)
Substitutes: 16 Atsushi Sakate, 17 Sam Prattley, 18 Hiroshi Yamashita, 19 Awe Helu, 20 Shuhei Matsuhashi, 21 Keisuke Uchida, 22 Rikiya Matsuda, 23 Michael Little
Sharks: 15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Sbu Nkosi, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Louis Schreuder (captain), 8 Daniel du Preez, 7 Tyler Paul, 6 Jacques Vermeulen, 5 Ruan Botha, 4 Hyron Andrews, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Akker van der Merwe, 1 Tendai Mtawarira
Substitutes: 16 Kerron van Vuuren, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 Khutha Mchunu, 19 Gideon Koegelenberg, 20 Phendulani Buthelezi, 21 Cameron Wright, 22 Rhyno Smith, 23 Jeremy Ward
Recent Head to Head (any venue)
2018 Durban Sharks 50–22 Sunwolves (Tries 7-3)
2017 Singapore Sunwolves 17–38 Sharks (Tries 2-6)
2016 Durban Sharks 40–29 Sunwolves (Tries 6-4)
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With preparations for World Cup which Japan hosts later this year the Sunwolves absolute priority, there has some been a train of thought that their Super Rugby campaign could again suffer many more lows than highs.
I’m a little nervous of this one given that visiting South Africa sides have come unstuck against the Sunwolves but I’m going to side with the Sharks.
I considered the full time minus handicap but will settle on the Sharks to be 6 points or more in front by half time, just in case they run out of gas if it comes up hot in what is their first match of the tournament.
Bet: 2.5 units, Half time handicap Sharks -5.5 points at 10/11
(Unit scale 1 to 5)
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