Super Rugby: Sharks v Lions preview
The Sharks, coming off a bye week, are looking to make it three wins from three when they host the Lions on Saturday.
Last Updated: 07/03/14 8:38pm
While the Sharks started the season producing the same uncanny ability to punish teams when presented with turnover possession, a drastic improvement in their defensive structure has been noted and this is part of the reason why Jake White's men are, again, early favourites to win the tournament.
By naming an unchanged starting line-up for his team's third outing of the season, White is steadily increasing the trust factor within his squad while the World Cup-winning coach would undoubtedly agree that continuity in personnel at Super Rugby level is as rare as Lions victories over the Sharks have been over the years.
On the other side of the coin it could end up being somewhat of an emotional encounter for Lions coach Johan Ackermann, whose first match in charge of the Johannesburg side was against the Sharks in 2012.
Ackermann started his tenure as head coach during an uncertain time at Ellis Park, but showed he meant business when his side banked the only victory the Lions have recorded over the Sharks since they split from the Cats in 2006.
While White had the luxury of showing continuity in his selection, Ackermann decided to reintroduce Elton Jantjies as his starting fly-half ahead of Marnitz Boshoff who has been shifted to full-back.
Jantjies has been sidelined through injury, but has made steadily returned to form playing in the lower leagues while Boshoff called the shots in the team's opening three matches.
His return puts the Lions in a position where they will have a left and right-footed kicker at their disposal, although Jantjies' ability to attack the gain-line may be of greater value against a side that has world beaters to protect that all important 10-12 channel.
To counter the threat of Sharks captain Bismarck du Plessis and group of internationals, veteran Willie Wepener has been promoted from the bench and he will undoubtedly beef-up a pack that previously relied heavily on Springbok Franco van der Merwe's experience as guidance.
Sharks:15 Marais, 14 Ndungane, 13 Jordaan, 12 Steyn, 11 Mvovo, 10 Lambie, 9 Reinach; 1 Mtawarira, 2 Bismarck du Plessis (capt), 3 Jannie du Plessis, 4 Bresler, 5 Du Toit, 6 Coetzee, 7 Alberts, 8 Kankowski
Replacements:16 Cooper, 17 Chadwick, 18 Adriaanse, 19 Lewies, 20 Deysel, 21 McLeod, 22 Williams, 23 Sithole
Lions:15 Boshoff, 14 Combrinck, 13 Van Rensburg, 12 Watermeyer, 11 Botha, 10 Jantjies, 9 De Klerk; 1 Schalk van der Merwe, 2 Wepener, 3 Redelinghuys, 4 Mostert, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 6 Kriel, 7 Tecklenburg, 8 Whiteley (capt)
Replacements:16 Coetzee, 17 Fourie, 18 Dreyer, 19 Lusaseni, 20 Britz, 21 Cronje 22, Jonker, 23 Van Wyk