Preview: Reds v Sharks
It's sorry times for the Sharks at present, with woeful form and an injury list longer than their try tally resulting in four defeats on the trot, including a loss to the Highlanders last time out - the Otago outfit's first win of the season.
After a promising start to the campaign it's all gone a bit pear-shaped for John Plumtree's men and the remedy is not a clear one. Basic errors and poor decision making have been the primary reason for the Sharks' troubles and one has to feel they have also taken a hit mentally - the Highlanders result will certainly not have helped this.
Plumtree has been forced into making changes for the Reds game, with Frans Steyn and Lubabalo Mtembu out injured. The loss of Steyn is not as big as it may seem, with JP Pietersen slotting into the midfield as his replacement, leaving the raw - but promising - Piet Lindeque on the wing. The pack is given a boost by the return of Jean Deysel but it's the third change that sums up the Sharks position with Springbok prop Jannie du Plessis replaced by JC Janse van Rensburg.
A number of the Sharks' big name players have failed to fire when they've been needed most, with Du Plessis, Steyn and skipper Keegan Daniel the primary culprits.
The entire team will need to lift their game against the Reds, but it's hard to see them coming up with the performance required. The Sharks of last season were able to lift themselves when required, but the class of 2013 doesn't seem to possess that quality despite containing many of the same names.
The Reds too enter the game having failed to hit great heights last time out when they drew to the Force. The men from Brisbane dominated for large periods but some titanic defence kept them at bay.
Ewen McKenzie will probably have seen the result as a small blip, with the Reds well placed to secure a play-off berth. A tour to South Africa follows Saturday's game and it is with this in mind that McKenzie has tweaked his line-up, with Ben Tapuai rested and skipper James Horwill not risked.
The Reds XV is an impressive one, with the new-look midfield perhaps the weakest link. Despite the physical nature of the Sharks, the hosts will be confident of meeting them head on. The battle of the loose trios could prove key, with both sides possessing dynamic loose forwards. Jake Schatz, Liam Gill and Eddie Quirk have really grown into a powerful force this season and their ability to both disrupted opposition ball and grab turnovers has been a high point. However, it's the Quade Cooper-Will Genia axis that as always is likely to direct proceedings.
Super Rugby head-to-head: Pat Lambie and Quade Cooper are fly-halves capable of setting their team alight. While very different types of players, both posses the necessary x-factor to make a real difference. Cooper has had an up and down season but has shown glimpses of his brilliance. Lambie's place kicking has been a high point of his campaign but the Sharks number ten will need to impose himself more on the game in Brisbane if his side are to triumph
Prediction: The Reds should hit their straps once more and will be looking to head on tour on a high while the Sharks may be looking to bury their heads in the sand and wait until it's all over. Reds by 10-15.
Reds: 15 Jono Lance, 14 Rod Davies, 13 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 12 Anthony Faingaa, 11 Digby Ioane, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia (c), 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Liam Gill, 6 Eddie Quirk, 5 Ed O'Donoghue, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 James Slipper, 2 Saia Faingaa, 1 Greg Holmes.
Replacements: 16 James Hanson, 17 Albert Anae, 18 Adam Wallace-Harrison, 19 Beau Robinson, 20 Jarrad Butler, 21 Ben Lucas, 22 Ben Tapuai.
The Sharks: 15 Riaan Viljoen, 14 Piet Lindeque, 13 JP Pietersen, 12 Meyer Bosman, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Patrick Lambie, 9 Charl McLeod, 8 Keegan Daniel (c), 7 Jean Deysel, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Kyle Cooper, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg.
Replacements: 16 Monde Hadebe, 17 Jannie du Plessis, 18 Anton Bresler, 19 Derick Minnie, 20 Willem Alberts, 21 Tian Meyer, 22 Odwa Ndungane.
Date: Saturday, May 11
Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Kick-off: 19.40 (09.40 GMT, 11.40 SAST)
Referee: Glen Jackson