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Super Rugby: Sharks v Waratahs preview
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The depleted Sharks put their title credentials on the line when they take on the Waratahs at Kings Park on Saturday.
The hosts are without half-backs Pat Lambie and Cobus Reinach, while Pieter-Steph du Toit is another who won't make the line-up. In total, Sharks' coach Jake White has made 10 changes, either in personnel or positional, to the team that went down 23-19 to the Bulls last weekend.
Despite that they are able to call upon Keegan Daniel, last year's Sharks Currie Cup-winning captain, who is in the squad for the first time this season, underlining the depth in White's squad.
Meanwhile the visitors will have to make do without brilliant full-back Israel Folau if they are to pick up the points for only the 11th time in 16 outings against Saturday's opponents.
The former Australian rugby league international picked up a throat injury in last week's win against the Rebels and will have to wait a week before attempting to add to his burgeoning eight-try tally for the season.
Despite those statistics, the Sharks have won three of their seven home encounters with the 'Tahs and drawn the other, so they can approach the weekend with confidence and should they overcome this challenge then they will surely silence any doubts about their ability to lift the title.
"From a morale point of view, it is important not to react too badly to last week's defeat," said coach White.
"It was our first loss, and it is unlikely any team will go through an entire Super Rugby tournament unbeaten. We are back at home, we are unbeaten at home and we want to try bounce back from last week with a good performance.
"It's a new week, a new opportunity and we have a bye next week, so there is a lot to play for and no reason why we don't give everything this weekend.
"The Waratahs are a good team, they have a lot of Wallabies in their squad and they have been on a good roll so far in the competition. Like us, they've only lost just one game and they have a really well-balanced team."
Sharks: 15 Mvovo, 14 Ndungane, 13 Sithole, 12 Steyn, 11 Pietersen, 10 Zeilinga, 9 McLeod; 1 Mtawarira 2 B du Plessis (capt), 3 J du Plessis 4 Alberts, 5 Lewies, 6 Coetzee, 7 Deysel, 8 Kankowski
Replacements: 16 Cooper, 17 Chadwick, 18 Adriaanse, 19 Oosthuizen, 20 Daniel, 21 Ungerer, 22 Williams, 23 Marais.
Waratahs: 15 Lance, 14 Horne, 13 Ashley-Cooper, 12 Beale, 11 Betham, 10 Foley, 9 Phipps; 1 Robinson, 2 Polota-Nau, 3 Kepu, 4 Potgieter, 5 Dougles, 6 Dennis (capt), 7 Hooper, 8 Palu.
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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