The South African Super Rugby season kicks off at Loftus Versfeld with a match that is expected to be a huge physical clash between the Bulls and Sharks.
The Bulls have a very different look about them even though the team is fairly familiar as there are nine Bulls Super Rugby debutants but also 11 Springboks in the team.
The Sharks have lost a couple of their big names from last season but there are mainly the players that were near the end of their careers such as Stefan Terblanche, Adrian Jacobs and John Smit.
A big difference for the Sharks this season is that they have two strong options at 10 as Freddie Michalak is still with the Sharks although this week he is playing at No.9.
The personnel losses for the Bulls have been much more painful as this year there is no Victor Matfield, Bakkies Botha, Fourie du Preez, Danie Rossouw and the list goes on. Last year really was the end of a Bulls era.
The captaincy has gone to Pierre Spies who, if we are honest, has not been the player he was since 2009. Giving Spies the captaincy could work out well but it also could add too much pressure on him that he can't find his old game. Only time will tell.
In particular battles to watch out for the duel between Patrick Lambie and Morne Steyn will be very interesting especially since former Bulls mentor Heyneke Meyer is now Springbok coach.
These teams last met in Pretoria last year and the Sharks won 23-36 but out of the last five clashes between the teams the Bulls have won three. Three of those five matches were at Loftus and the Sharks won two of the three.
The Bulls and the Sharks have played each other in Super Rugby 16 times and the Bulls have won 8 and lost seven.
On average when the Bulls and Sharks play each other the Bulls score 19 points and the Bulls 22. At Loftus the average score still favours the Sharks at 19-21.
The Bookies have given the Sharks a 1 point start for this match with an offer of Bet 10 and Get 20. The Sharks team is more familiar with itself than the Bulls team is after all those departures we are backing the Sharks this week. Sharks should win by 3.
This match will be shown on TV NZ, Aus, SA and in the UK on Sky Sports 2 HD.
Average Score : Bulls 19 Sharks 22
Last five results
18 Jun 2011 Bulls v Sharks 23-26 Pretoria
21 May 2011 Bulls v Sharks 32-23 Durban
01 May 2010 Bulls v Sharks 27-19 Pretoria
16 May 2009 Bulls v Sharks 27-26 Durban
01 Mar 2008 Bulls v Sharks 15-29 Pretoria
Bulls overall record against the Sharks
Played 16, Wins 8 , Losses 7 , Draws 1
Match : 3
Date : Friday 24 February
Teams :Bulls v Sharks
Venue : Pretoria
Time KO (local) :19:10
Referee: Jonathan Kaplan
AR1: Pro Legoete
AR2 : Tiaan Jonker
TMO : Gerrie Coetzee
1. Dale Chadwick , 2. Bismarck du Plessis , 3. Jannie du Plessis , 4. Steven Sykes , 5. Anton Bresler , 6. Keegan Daniel (Captain) , 7. Marcell Coetzee , 8. Ryan Kankowski , 9. Frederic Michalak , 10. Patrick Lambie , 11. Lwazi Mvovo , 12. Tim Whitehead , 13. JP Pietersen , 14. Louis Ludik , 15. Riaan Viljoen
Replacements , 16. Craig Burden , 17. Wiehahn Herbst , 18. Ross Skeate , 19. Jacques Botes , 20. Charl McLeod , 21. Meyer Bosman , 22. Paul Jordaan
Zane Kirchner (54), Akona Ndungane (67), Johann Sadie (7) , Francois Venter (0) , Bjorn Basson (25), Morne Steyn (89), Francois Hougaard (29), Pierre Spies (72, c), Jacques Potgieter (0) , Deon Stegmann (55), Juandre Kruger (0) , Flip van der Merwe (34), Werner Kruger (58), Chiliboy Ralepelle (35), Dean Greyling (15).
Replacements: Willie Wepener (40) , Frik Kirsten (2), Wilhelm Steenkamp (36), CJ Stander (0) , Jano Vermaak (62) , Louis Fouche (0) , JJ Engelbrecht (0) .
(Super Rugby Caps in brackets)