Blue Bulls v Sharks
October 24, 2008
Springbok flyer Bryan Habana starts for the Bulls © Getty Images
The Sharks take on the Blue Bulls in Durban on Saturday in this year's Currie Cup Final.
Coach John Plumtree has named an unchanged Sharks side, opting to keep faith with the line-up that beat the Lions in their semi-final clash. As a result he will once again field an all-international backline featuring Odwa Ndungane and JP Pietersen on the wings and Frenchman Frederic Michalak at fly-half.
Up front he has the luxury of an all-Springbok front row with Jannie and Bismarch du Plessis set to pack down with Tenda Mtawarira. Lock Johann Muller will once again skipper the side while South Africa captain John Smit is amongst the replacements.
Ahead of the clash Plumtree said, "I've been in this situation a lot and there's no right recipe, it's all about what happens on the day. I'm just trying to prepare this team as best I know how.
"The two teams may have different strategies and different ways of preparing but I've just been focused on doing what I can do. In the end, I also have to just stand back and watch them perform, but I'm really excited about the challenge."
His skipper Johann Muller added, "We set ourselves some standards this season, we wanted a Final and a home one at that, and we have achieved it. We started slowly in this competition, but really built well and are playing some outstanding rugby. We have a great squad and some fantastic players and the coaching staff have also been absolutely fantastic.
"We are building and peaking at the right time. We must just play to their best of our ability and the way we want to play. It's always about us and we have to make sure we are perfect for the final, which is always going to be tough."
Predicatably Plumtree's opposite number Frans Ludeke has also opted to retain the same side that booked passage to the final with victory over the Cheetahs two weeks ago.
Wing John Mametsa retains his spot on the wing after Springbok wing Akona Ndungane was not considered after failing a fitness test on Monday
The side is packed with experience with World Cup winners such as wing Bryan Habana, lock Victor Matfield, centre Wynand Olivier, flank Wikus van Heerden, prop Gurthro Steenkamp and scrum-half Fourie du Preez all set to start.
Commenting on his decision to stick with his line-up, Ludeke said, "When players play a few games next to one another they start to anticipate what their team-mates are going to do and then you function as a team.
"We are in a situation where the guys play for each other and they do not just worry about their own game."
Captain Matfield added, "Playing in a final is a huge honour and you do get nervous from time to time, but with the nerves comes adrenaline and that gives you the necessary extra energy. We know it is not going to be easy, but we are going to fight for the full 80 minutes to ensure that the Currie Cup comes back to Pretoria."
The Sharks: Stefan Terblanche, Odwa Ndungane, Adrian Jacobs, Francois Steyn, JP Pietersen, Frederic Michalak, Ruan Pienaar, Ryan Kankowski, Jean Deysel, Jacques Botes, Johann Muller (captain), Steven Sykes, Jannie du Plessis, Bismarck du Plessis, Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: John Smit, Deon Carstens, Albert van den Berg, Keegan Daniel, Rory Kockott, Bradley Barritt, Waylon Murray.
Blue Bulls: Zane Kirchner, John Mametsa, Marius Delport, Wynand Olivier, Bryan Habana, Morne Steyn, Fourie du Preez, Pierre Spies, Wikus van Heerden, Deon Stegmann, Victor Matfield (captain), Danie Rossouw, Rayno Gerber, Derick Kuun, Gurthro Steenkamp.
Replacements: Chiliboy Ralepelle, Werner Kruger, Juandre Kruger, Dewald Potgieter, Heini Adams, Burton Francis, Tiger Mangweni.
Kick off: 16:30 (local time)