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Super Rugby: Brumbies v Sharks match preview
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Australian Conference leaders the Brumbies host Super Rugby leaders the Sharks in their eagerly-anticipated clash at Canberra's GIO Stadium on Saturday.
The Brumbies go into the clash on the back of a 40-23 defeat to the Crusaders, while the Sharks ran out 22-16 winners at the Rebels.
Historically the Sharks have struggled against the Brumbies in Canberra, but they did win their last visit 29-26 in 2012.
The hosts have named Fotu Auelua at blindside flank - the sole change to the XV that lost to the Crusaders, with Jordan Smiler the man moving to the bench as Jack Whetton drops out.
"Fotu had a good game for Wests (a club side) last week," said coach Laurie Fisher. "He's been itching to get back on the park for the last month or so.
"He brings aggression and physicality to our side, which will be valuable against a big, South African forward pack like the Sharks."
Fisher added: "The Sharks are leading the competition and have threats right across the park, so an improved performance from last week is vital if we are going to walk away with points."
For the Sharks, centre S'bura Sithole and scrum-half Cobus Reinach have been named in the starting XV, two of three changes boss Jake White has made to the side.
An injury enforced alteration at flank sees Keegan Daniel taking over from Marcell Coetzee who has returned home, while Reinach starts his first match since injuring himself against the Bulls in their fifth game of the tournament.
Charl McLeod rotates to the bench, having played almost every minute of the last five matches. The other changes come in the midfield where Paul Jordaan replaces Heimar Williams at inside centre, accommodating Sithole outside him.
"We had an extra day to prepare for this match (compared to last week) and more time to plan," White told the Sharks' official website.
"First playing second on the log is obviously a massive game, but it's irrelevant that I was there, or now I'm with the Sharks; the point is that in the 2014 competition, it's number one playing number two."
White admits it will be tough to beat the Brumbies in Canberra, but he takes heart from the victory there two years ago.
"Like all teams, like us, they're very difficult to beat at their home ground," added White.
"Historically, it's been a tough place to win, but the nice thing is that a lot of these players were here two years ago when they came to Canberra, so they've experienced the feeling of winning there already. We're looking forward to seeing whether or not we can replicate what happened two years ago."
The Crusaders defeated the Brumbies last weekend which has the twin effect of assisting the Sharks' league position, but on the flip side, motivating the Brumbies even more following a loss.
"We just have to keep playing well and keep winning," said White.
"We control our own destiny which is the great thing when you're in a sporting arena. You never want to have to rely on other results to determine your fortunes. If we keep winning, we can control the way the tournament will end up."
Don't miss any of the action as the Brumbies host the Sharks live on Sky Sports 3HD from 10.30am on Saturday.
Brumbies: 15 Mogg, 14 Tomane, 13 Kuridrani, 12 Lealiifano, 11 Coleman, 10 Toomua, 9 White; 1 Sio, 2 Moore, 3 Alexander, 4 Fardy, 5 Carter, 6 Auelua, 7 Butler, 8 Mowen (c).
Replacements: 16 Mann-Rea, 17 R Smith, 18 Murphy, 19 Smiler, 20 McVerry, 21 Dowsett, 22 A Smith, 23 McCabe.
Sharks: 15 Mvovo, 14 Ndungane, 13 Sithole, 12 Jordaan, 11 Pietersen, 10 Steyn, 9 Reinach; 1 Mtawarira, 2 B du Plessis (c), 3 J du Plessis, 4 Alberts, 5 Lewies, 6 Daniel, 7 Deysel, 8 Kankowski.
Replacements: 16 Cooper, 17 Chadwick, 18 Adriaanse, 19 Oosthuizen, 20 Mtembu, 21 McLeod, 22 Williams, 23 Marais.
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|Friday 13th February|
|06:35||Crusaders vs Melbourne Rebels|
|08:40||Brumbies vs Reds|
|17:10||Lions vs Hurricanes|
|Saturday 14th February|
|06:35||Blues vs Chiefs|
|15:05||Sharks vs Cheetahs|
|17:05||Bulls vs Stormers|
|Sunday 15th February|
|06:05||Waratahs vs Western Force|
|Friday 20th February|
|06:35||Chiefs vs Brumbies|
|08:40||Melbourne Rebels vs Waratahs|
|17:10||Bulls vs Hurricanes|
|Saturday 21st February|
|06:35||Highlanders vs Crusaders|
|08:40||Reds vs Western Force|
|15:05||Stormers vs Blues|
|17:10||Sharks vs Lions|
|Friday 27th February|
|06:35||Highlanders vs Reds|
|11:00||Western Force vs Hurricanes|
|17:10||Cheetahs vs Blues|
|Saturday 28th February|
|06:35||Chiefs vs Crusaders|
|08:40||Melbourne Rebels vs Brumbies|
|15:05||Bulls vs Sharks|
|17:10||Lions vs Stormers|
|Friday 6th March|
|06:35||Chiefs vs Highlanders|
|08:40||Brumbies vs Western Force|
|Saturday 7th March|
|06:35||Blues vs Lions|
|08:40||Reds vs Waratahs|
Read the thoughts and opinions of Phil Edwards with skysports.com