CAPE TOWN – The high-riding Sharks arrive at Newlands on Saturday to take on the under-siege Stormers in a game where, sadly for the Newlands fans, pride will be the only thing at stake for the home side.
The Stormers are licking their wounds after going down 25-14 to the Jaguares in Buenos Aires on Saturday night while the Sharks beat the Lions to keep their hopes alive of advancing in the competition.
The Stormers had beaten the Argentinians 28-20 in their opening fixture at Newlands to suggest they would make a play-off spot.
But since then the Stormers have only won four from 14 outings, all at home, while remaining winless away.
Coach Robbie Fleck will certainly be under pressure to hold onto his job, and the fact is that Western Province director of rugby Gert Smal has a lot to mull over.
The curious setup of assistants Paul Treu and Paul Feeney both working on attack and defence can’t be helping the players.
The defensive system seems to lack clarity; whether to go for line speed or line integrity has resulted in the players producing mediocre defence.
As for the attacking structure, there has hardly been any decent attack off the set-pieces. And there has been very little evidence of the driving maul.
In Buenos Aires the Stormers again made too many mistakes and seemed without much of a plan. There were some good invididual moments from the likes of Bongi Mbonambi, Jean-Luc du Plessis, Steven Kitshoff and Sikhumbuzo Notshe, but too often the Stormers played like a team without confidence.
In contrast, the Jaguares put a disappointing run of three defeats as the Pumas behind them by retaining their fine Super Rugby form for a seventh consecutive victory with hardly a change in personnel from the June international window in Argentina colours.
Tries by wing Bautista Delguy and lock Guido Petti helped the Jaguares to a 15-7 halftime lead and centre Matias Orlando went over in the second half. Sikhumbuzo Notshe and fullback Dillyn Leyds scored tries for the Stormers
The Jaguares’ best season in the competition has been rewarded with a marked increase in home crowds at Velez Sarsfield where 18,000 watched Saturday’s win. Conversely it has not rubbed off on the Pumas, the original objective of the franchise, costing Daniel Hourcade his job as national coach after two losses to Wales and one to Scotland in June.
Mike de Bruyn