Weird Times: The Sharks head to Johannesburg to face the British and Irish Lions for a midweek tour match.
If that wasn’t enough, the game will be played against the backdrop of all the uncertainty surrounding the B&I Lions Tour.
The massive wave of COVID-19 cases sweeping across South Africa has already prompted a ‘postponement’ of one match, threatening Springboks vs. Lelos Test and led to questions about the venues and dates of the remaining round matches.
The match between the Bulls and the B&I Lions in Pretoria on Saturday was postponed after four unidentified players and one official from the host franchise tested positive for the COVID-19 virus.
There are also doubts whether Friday’s test between South Africa and Georgia in Johannesburg will go ahead – after positive tests in both camps.
Despite all of this, the Sharks and B&I lions insist they are just focused on and heading toward their encounter at Ellis Park on Wednesday – game two of the tour.
The B&I Lions easily dispatched the Johannesburg-based Lions who were hopelessly outclassed – winning 56-14 in a game that forced the tourists to change their tactics to avoid turning the picnic into a farce.
B&I Lions defense coach Steve Tandy expects the Sharks to give an even bigger test and make it more than just a competition.
He said the Sharks have a young team playing “a little bit more” than they faced against the Johannesburg-based Lions last weekend.
“they [Sharks] “They have some very vibrant players in the back line,” he said, adding: “They have a good ability to carry the No. 8 ball.
“There is real ambition in the way the sharks play, so we are going to have to raise the standards in terms of what we do.”
Tandy added that the test team remains a “white paper” and that Wednesday is another opportunity for players to present their cases for inclusion on the test team.
“The standard of training is excellent – and despite all the competition – there is still this that helps ensure we are all on the same page.
“It’s really open to testing sites.”
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Shark trainer Shaun Everett noted that they would face “the best” in the UK and Ireland.
“It’s such a great team and it’s a huge challenge for us,” said the Sharks trainer.
He added that it will be a good opportunity for his players to gauge how far they are from the pace required to become international players.
“We learned a lot from their victory over [Johannesburg-based] black.
“We need to run, because they play at a high intensity.”
Everett added that the B&I lions are good at speeding up the game, something the South African teams have tried to do – with limited success.
“We haven’t gotten there yet,” he said of being able to play the match at a high pace.
The shark trainer also talked about the fitness of the tourists.
“They intend to play them,” he said, adding, “They can go from a competitive kicking game to a running game.
“They play what is in front of them.
“The most important aspect, because of the quality of the players and their team, they leave no room for error.
“They have good streak speed in defense, good kick pursuit and they put the collapse under tremendous pressure.”
For hosts, the key is “accuracy” and not giving the opponent too much time and space.
“They will play whatever opportunities they have, we need to run for the full 80 minutes.”
players to watch
For sharks: Sevens star Werner Cook and rising winger Thacker Abrahams could cause massive damage if they had the chance. However, the main linebacker is flyhalf Curwin Bosch, who must pull the strings and give directions to his team. The attackers must set the stage – with James Venter on the break, while Hyron Andrews and Ruben van Heerden must provide dominance in the body trade-offs.
For British and Irish Lions: You could probably list the entire team, but the central combination of Elliot Daly and Bundee Aki will bring something sharks haven’t experienced yet. There’s also South African-born Scottish winger Dohan van der Merwe to add color to the standoff. The loose-fitting trio of Sam Symonds, Tom Curry, and Josh Navidi are pure class.
face to face
Teams from Durban have never defeated tourists. The closest they got was when Natal drew 3-All with the Lions in Pietermaritzburg in 1924.
2009: B&I Lions won 39-3
1997: B&I Lions won 42-12
1980: B&I Lions wins 21-15
1974: The B&I Lions win 34-6
1968: The B&I Lions win 17-5
1962: B&I Lions win 13-3
1938: B&I Lions won 15-11
1924: Draw Natal and the B&I Lions 3-all
1903: The B&I Lions win 22-0
@rugby365com: B&I Lions by 22 points
Sharks: 15 Manny Lebok, 14 Werner Cook, 13 Jeremy Ward, 12 Marius Law, 11 Thacker Abrahams, 10 Corwin Bosch, 9 Jaden Hendricks, 8 Visei Buthelezi (captain), 7 Thembilani Bholi, 6 James Venter, 5 Heron Andrews, 4 Robin Van Heerden, 3 Khotha Mashunu, 2 Fez Mbatha, 1 Khoizi Mona.
Alternatives: 16 Kerron van Vuuren, 17 Ntuthuko Mchunu, 18 Wiehahn Herbst, 19 JJ van der Mescht, 20 Reniel Hugo, 21 Dylan Richardson, 22 Grant Williams, 23 Anthony Volmink.
British and Irish Lions: 15 Liam Williams, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Elliot Daly, 12 Bundy Aki, 11 Dohan van der Merwe, 10 Dan Biggar 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Sam Symonds, 7 Tom Curry, 6 Josh Navidi, 5 Adam Bird, 4 Ian Henderson (captain ), 3 Xander Fagerson, 2 Luke Kwan Dickey, 1 Mako Vunipola.
Alternatives: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Rory Sutherland, 18 Tadge Furlong, 19 Tadge Byrne, 20 Jack Conan, 21 Conor Murray, 22 Stewart Hogg, 23 Chris Harris.
Date: Wednesday 7 July
Place: Ellis Park, Johannesburg
Starting: 19.00 (18.00 GMT; 17.00 GMT)
Expected weather: The skies are clear and there is almost no chance of thunderstorms. Above 17°C and minimum 7°C
Rule: Jacko Pepper (South Africa)
Assistant Referees: Wayne Barnes (England), AG Jacobs (South Africa)
TMO: Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa)