If the general trend of winning at home continues today, then the Stormers and Sharks should come out on top against the Lions and Cheetahs respectively – but when it comes to local derbies, we know there is no such thing as a trend.
Indeed, the Stormers and Sharks will start as favourites in their round 10 Super Rugby clashes, but only a fool would write off the chances of the visitors at Newlands and Kings Park.
South African rugby fans are in for a treat with two big home-based matches, while abroad, the Bulls are in action against the Waratahs. All five local teams have plenty to play for even if those reasons are very different.
The Sharks have not lost at home this season and another victory today would see them take a vice-like grip on the South African Conference – they are comfortably in front of their nearest challengers, the Bulls, and look almost certain to take the title this year.
Jake White’s men have only stumbled once this year – at Loftus against the Bulls – and have hardly been troubled in any other encounter. They did the business in Joburg last weekend and will be full of confidence taking on the Cheetahs, even if they have a “newcomer” in Tim Swiel at No 10.
The rest of the side is fairly settled and operating well as a unit, especially the backs who should give the Cheetahs’ defence plenty to think about.
And it’s this very area that will determine who comes out on top in this match. The Cheetahs have scored a ton of tries, but they’ve leaked even more, and if they’re not much-improved today, they could well suffer another big defeat, leaving them way down at the bottom of the standings. Cheetahs boss Naka Drotske will be hoping the return to action of Heinrich Brüssow will help his side at the breakdowns, but also in the defence department.
Both teams have shown a willingness to play attack-minded rugby – even if Drotske this week spoke about limiting the risks his team take – so it could well come down to whose defensive systems work best. It should be a thriller.
In Cape Town, the Stormers host the Lions knowing another defeat will bring more pressure on them and their coach, Allister Coetzee. It has been a miserable season so far for the Capetonians and, as such, the Lions will feel they can pick up a second away win.
Johan Ackermann’s team have won three times at home and once in Bloemfontein this year, but go into the game on the back of defeats by the Crusaders and Sharks. They’ll be desperate to turn that losing streak around before going on tour next week, and it’s hardly surprising they feel they’ve got a great chance of piling more misery on the Stormers.
The Lions comfortably beat the Stormers in round two, at Ellis Park, so they know what’s required to get the better of the bottom-feeders, even if man-for-man Coetzee’s team have more experienced players ... and this knowledge will prove extremely valuable at Newlands. Expect nothing less than a ferocious contest, but those wanting to see a feast of tries may be disappointed.
The Newlands clash is likely to be dominated by the boot, keeping the ball in the forwards and both teams playing so-called percentage-rugby.
In Sydney, the Bulls need to turn around a disappointing tour with a win against the Tahs. - Saturday Star