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- 15th Feb 2014
- KO 17:10
- Ground: Growthpoint Kings Park, Durban
Super Rugby: Sharks take on the Bulls in Durban showdown
The Sharks entertain three-time champions the Bulls at Kings Park in Durban in a high-profile opener on Saturday.
Failure to make the play-offs last season led to on and off-field changes with 2007 South Africa World Cup-winning captain John Smit and coach Jake White taking charge of the Sharks.
Expectations are high, with the Springbok-saturated Sharks widely tipped to be the leading title-contenders from South Africa.
Meanwhile, a tough season awaits the Bulls after a mass exodus of stars to Europe and Japan, including perennial match-winner Morne Steyn but squad depth still allows them to call on 15 Springboks.
World Cup-winning coach Jake White is widely tipped to be the man to end the Durban-based Sharks' heartbreak after three final defeats.
He has been able to name 11 Springboks in his starting line-up with a further three on the bench as he has been able to name a full-strength side.
"It is crucial to start well and it is a home game as well," White told the Sharks' website. "People have always spoken about the fact that you have to win your home games to give yourself a chance."
Bulls head coach Frans Ludeke has named a number of debutants in a youthful side which will be captained by Pierre Spies; while veteran Victor Matfield, who has come out of retirement, features among the replacements.
The lock will join former Sharks AJ Venter and John Smit in becoming the most capped South African Super Rugby players should he feature in his 125th match.
Deon Stegmann failed a fitness test due to a groin injury on Wednesday and was not considered, which gives Jono Ross a starting opportunity in the back row.
"This is going to be a typical South African derby with a lot of focus on the breakdown and to dominate the advantage line," said Ludeke.
"We respect the Sharks, but if we are accurate and play our rugby in the right areas of the field, we should get some reward for that."
Bulls: 15 Jurgen Visser, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 J J Engelbrecht, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Louis Fouche, 9 Francois Hougaard; 1 Dean Greyling, 2 Callie Visagie, 3 Werner Kruger, 4 Paul Willemse , 5 Flip van der Merwe, 6 Jono Ross, 7 Jacques du Plessis, 8 Pierre Spies (c).
Replacements: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Frik Kirsten, 18 Victor Matfield, 19 Jacques Engelbrecht, 20 Piet van Zyl, 21 Handre Pollard, 22 Ulrich Beyers, 23 Marcel vd Merwe.
Sharks: 15 SP Marais, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Paul Jordaan, 12 Frans Steyn, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Patrick Lambie, 9 Cobus Reinach; 1 Tendai Mtawarira, 2 Bismarck du Plessis (c), 3 Jannie du Plessis, 4 Anton Bresler, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 7 Willem Alberts, 8 Ryan Kankowski.
Replacements: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Dale Chadwick, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 Stephan Lewies, 20 Jean Deysel, 21 Charl McLeod, 22 Heimar Williams, 23 S'bura Sithole.
Watch Sharks v Bulls live on Sky Sports 1 HD at 5.10pm on Saturday.
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Read the thoughts and opinions of Phil Edwards with skysports.com