Dogged Sharks looking to break tour duck
URC ROUND THREE – TEAMS AND PREDICTION: Just one win from eight matches and that against lowly Italian team Zebre in the opening match of the tournament.
That tells the full story of the South African teams’ struggling start to life in Europe.
The Sharks are the next SA team to get a crack at breaking the poor run when they meet the Welsh regional outfit Ospreys in a United Championship Round Three outing in Swansea on Friday.
The Durban-based franchise has yet to register a victory in the URC and picked up their last win just over a month ago in the Currie Cup semifinals.
In stark contrast, the Ospreys will look to record three straight victories for the first time since the 2016-17 season – following wins against the Dragons and Cardiff.
The Swansea-based region has lost their last two matches against South African opponents – beaten at home by both the Southern Kings and the Cheetahs in November 2019.
However, they have been bolstered by the return of British and Irish Lions captain Alun Wyn Jones.
The veteran lock has been named in the starting XV ahead of the Ospreys’ first clash with South African opposition this season and will be the latest B&I Lion to be in action in the URC.
Adam Beard, who featured from the bench for the region in their 18-14 victory over Cardiff last weekend, also starts this week.
The Sharks, who lost 24-35 to Glasgow Warriors last week and suffered a humiliating 17-42 loss to Munster in Round One, believe they are close to breaking their tour duck.
Coach Sean Everitt said their Scottish opponents from last week was ‘very similar’ to what they experienced in Super Rugby.
“The Welsh team [Ospreys] tend to play more of a kicking game,” the Sharks mentor said of their Round Three opposition.
“They also rely on penalties from their set-piece to et entries into your 22-metre area.”
He said in their Round One outing Ospreys kicked 1198 metres.
“We are prepared for a kicking onslaught,” Everitt said, adding: “They rely on your mistakes and capitalise on that.”
The Sharks coach said his team could not afford another “poor start” as they did against the Warriors last week.
“Chasing the scoreboard away from home is always going to be difficult.
“Our guys were pretty shell-shocked in the first 20 minutes against Glasgow and then managed to get some momentum going.”
He described their Welsh opponents on Friday as “super conservative”.
“They only concede seven-and-a-half penalties per game.
“There is a massive challenge for our forwards.”
Ospreys coach Toby Booth used the all-too-familiar refrain of “physical” South Africans.
“Having seen the Sharks selection, we know they are big and there are four second rowers in that starting line-up,” Booth said.
“There was a lot of forward-orientated stuff in our performance against Cardiff and that has clearly been thought of.
“We know they are going to be physical and will have a good kicking game.
“It will be a different challenge and an exciting one because we are playing someone new.”
* Meanwhile in the other Friday game, at the Kingspan Stadium, in Belfast, Ulster and Benetton will put their winning starts to the season on the line – with the Ulstermen having picked up bonus-point victories in each of their opening two matches.
The Irish province has not been beaten by Italian opponents since losing to Zebre in September 2017 and their only previous defeat to Benetton came back in 2011.
Benetton has never won the opening three matches of the season, but neither have they won a game outside Italy since March 2020.
Their last clash with an Irish province ended in a 20-12 home win against Connacht.
They have never won successive matches against Irish opponents.
* Friday’s teams and predictions are below the video …
Friday, October 8
Ulster v Benetton
(Kingspan Stadium, Belfast – Kick-off: 19.35; 20.35 Italian time; 18.35 GMT)
@rugby365com: Ulster by 16 points
Ulster: 15 Will Addison, 14 Craig Gilroy, 13 James Hume, 12 Stewart Moore, 11 Ethan McIlroy, 10 Billy Burns, 9 Nathan Doak, 8 David McCann, 7 Nick Timoney, 6 Matty Rea, 5 Sam Carter (captain), 4 Alan O’Connor, 3 Tom O’Toole, 2 Rob Herring, 1 Andrew Warwick.
Replacements: 16 Brad Roberts, 17 Callum Reid, 18 Ross Kane, 19 Mick Kearney, 20 Sean Reidy, 21 David Shanahan, 22 Mike Lowry, 23 Ben Moxham.
Benetton: 15 Rhyno Smith, 14 Ratuva Tavuyara, 13 Marco Zanon, 12 Tommaso Benvenuti, 11 Luca Sperandio, 10 Leonardo Marin, 9 Callum Braley, 8 Braam Steyn, 7 Michele Lamaro (captain), 6 Giovanni Pettinelli, 5 Federico Ruzza, 4 Irné Herbst, 3 Ivan Nemer, 2 Corniel Els, 1 Federico Zani.
Replacements: 16 Tomas Baravalle, 17 Cherif Traoré, 18 Tiziano Pasquali, 19 Marco Lazzaroni, 20 Sebastian Negri, 21 Lorenzo Cannone, 22 Luca Petrozzi, 23 Luca Morisi.
Referee: AJ Jacobs (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Paul Haycock (Ireland), Andrew Cole (Ireland)
TMO: Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa)
Ospreys v Sharks
(Swansea Stadium, Swansea – Kick-off: 19.35; 20.35 SA time; 18.35 GMT)
@rugby365com: Ospreys by five points
Ospreys: 15 Dan Evans, 14 Mat Protheroe, 13 Tiaan Thomas Wheeler, 12 Owen Watkin, 11 Luke Morgan, 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Rhys Webb (captain), 8 Morgan Morris, 7 Jac Morgan, 6 Will Griffiths, 5 Alun Wyn Jones, 4 Adam Beard, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Sam Parry, 1 Nicky Smith.
Replacements: 16 Elvis Taione, 17 Gareth Thomas, 18 Tom Botha, 19 Rhys Davies, 20 Ethan Roots, 21 Reuben Morgan-Williams, 22 Stephen Myler, 23 Joe Hawkins.
Sharks: 15 Anthony Volmink, 14 Marnus Potgieter, 13 Jeremy Ward, 12 Marius Louw, 11 Thaakir Abrahams, 10 Boeta Chamberlain, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Henco Venter, 7 Gerbrandt Grobler, 6 James Venter, 5 Hyron Andrews, 4 Ruben van Heerden, 3 Thomas du Toit (captain), 2 Kerron van Vuuren, 1 Ntuthuko Mchunu.
Replacements: 16 Dan Jooste, 17 Khwezi Mona, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 Le Roux Roets, 20 Phepsi Buthelezi, 21 Dylan Richardson, 22 Sanele Nohamba, 23 Werner Kok.
Referee: Frank Murphy (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Craig Evens (Wales) Carwyn Williams (Wales)
TMO: Leo Colgan (Ireland)
* Additional reporting by @URCOfficial