The first home game of the season gets underway on Saturday afternoon as the Cell C Sharks host the Blues in an exciting round two Vodacom Super Rugby clash at JONSSON KINGS PARK.
There’s a lot of history between the two sides, going back to an epic final in Auckland in 1996, and since then, the teams have met on numerous occasions, with the Cell C Sharks holding the upper hand as far as success goes. The early days of the tournament were dominated by the 1996 champion New Zealand side, but in recent years, it’s been the Durbanites who have enjoyed greater success.
The big focus leading into last week’s match against the Sunwolves was about getting our campaign off to a winning start, to avoid having to play catch-up rugby later on. Mission accomplished in that respect, but the importance of winning this Saturday is another factor to take into account given the season goals.
“It’s massive, really important that we win all our home games,” explains Cell C Sharks Head coach Robert du Preez. “If we want to be in contention for the play-offs, we need to win every game at home. This first one here is massive for us.”
In last week’s match against the Sunwolves, our forwards really fronted up and that control laid the platform for the backline to exploit. In a case of ‘let’s have more of that,’ captain Louis Schreuder explains: “Every game is import upfront, we have to dominate. The Blues are a quality outfit and we have to try nullify the brand of rugby they want to play. Especially with the team they’ve picked. So if we can carry on from last week’s start, that will be great.”
What They Said:
“The Blues are a formidable side, we saw how well they played against the Crusaders, but we can’t worry too much about what they do, we have to focus on ourselves. The conditions will be difficult, it’s going to be hot and humid which should work in our favour.”
- Cell C Sharks Head coach Robert du Preez
“We were very happy to get the bonus point in the first Super Rugby game of the year, especially away to a strong Sunwolves team. You have to be up for it and bring it against the New Zealand teams, in fact you have to bring it against all the teams.”
- Cell C Sharks captain Louis Schreuder
“Over the past few years, New Zealand teams have become the benchmark in world rugby, so to play them is an opportunity to measure yourself against the best. The Blues are a young, exciting team, a really strong side. It’s going to be a great game to see where we are in terms of our processes and where we are as a team, a challenge we’re looking forward to. And one we’re up for.”
- Prop Khutha Mchunu
There is continuity in team selection with head coach Robert du Preez retaining the same starting line-up, with just two changes on the bench, the return of Thomas du Toit at prop and Curwin Bosch who had a shoulder niggle following the pre-season but is now back to full fitness.
“It was the right thing to do (retain the same team) for the boys who went to Singapore and did a great job. Having said that, the bench also did very well when they came on,” said du Preez.
The Blues have left out Ma’a Nonu but Sonny Bill Williams gets a start in a team that has a lot of young talent and a handful of All Blacks. They narrowly lost to the Crusaders in round one, but had a couple of late conversion attempts been successful, it would have been the Aucklanders to walk away triumphant.
The Cell C Sharks have won 11 of the previous 12 clashes between the two sides, a winning margin of 10 points each game.
Overall, the two teams have met 24 times with the Cell C Sharks coming out victorious in 15 of those clashes. The Blues have won nine of those 24 – no matches between them have been drawn.
Despite the Cell C Sharks’ overwhelming win percentage, the average scoreline is extremely close (26.4 – 25.3), suggesting that wins have not come easily.
In matches played at Jonsson KINGS PARK, the Cell C Sharks are dominant, having won eight and lost just three times, the last meeting was a 22-20 victory, back in 2013. Since then, the team have met three times, all in Auckland.
Head to Head:
2014: Blues 23 -29 Sharks
2016: Blues 23 -18 Sharks
2018: Blues 40 -63 Sharks
Referee: Paul Williams
Kick-off: Saturday 23 February
Venue: JONSSON KINGS PARK